A crime wave is taking a toll on community morale in Broome, where more than eight businesses have been targeted by “malicious” thieves in less than a month.
- A local business owner sustains more than $20,000 in damage to her store
- Another had three break-ins over three days, with $15,000 worth of alcohol stolen
- Local leaders are planning to lobby the government when they fly to Perth
Harvey Norman franchisee Laura De Vere Hunt recently received a phone call from police at four o’clock in the morning.
They told her that a group of juveniles had stolen a car from a local resort and rammed her shop’s front glass doors open.
The thieves stole one item from the store — a small tin.
The store lost two days of trade and Ms De Vere Hunt is worried the “wanton destruction of property” could happen again to someone else.
“I’m a larger business, I’ve got the ability to absorb some of these costs, but smaller businesses can’t absorb those costs,” she said.
“Something really drastic needs to change.”
Malice behind the crime
Sally Dearle’s family has owned Millar Refrigeration in Broome since 1989.
She grew up in the Kimberley but says she has never seen the town drowning in this much crime.
Ms Dearle’s business was broken into this week, with thieves taking a work van and a packet of cigarettes.
“It’s not necessarily the value of items that are being stolen but just the inconvenience, the cost of repairs and the insurance premiums going through the roof.
“I couldn’t imagine not knowing where my kids are at night; they should be with [the parents], not out roaming the street.”
Three incidents in three days
Jaimie Laing, the owner of one of Broome’s newest eateries, says her restaurant has been broken into three times in three days by adults looking for alcohol.
The business owner has not had much sleep in the past week, keeping an eye on her security cameras until the early hours of the morning.
“It’s devastating because you don’t know: Do you clean it up? Do you repair? Do you set up to open or is it going to happen again?”
Ms Laing frequently volunteers to feed people in need and hands out leftover food at the nearby park.
But since the recent break-ins, her will to give back to the community has deflated.
“It’s tough to think that I have to change who I am as a person because of a minority,” she said, adding that local and state governments had not heard business owners’ pleas.
“If we don’t fix it, we’re going to have no tourism industry.”
Lobbying for government help
Next week, the four Kimberley Shire presidents are heading to Perth to lobby the government for more support in the fight against crime, following a series of community consultation meetings around the region.
Opposition Leader Mia Davies said locals had told her there needed to be a stop to the “revolving door” of the justice system.
“One of the comments [we were told] was [the youth criminals] go to Banksia Hill and they come back a hardened criminal,” she said.
But Police Minister Paul Papalia dismissed the forums.
“I don’t attend Liberal Party political meetings normally, it’s not something I do. I’m the Minister for Police,” he said.