Katherine retailers are beefing up security to cope with the latest crime wave.
More shops are now installing unwelcoming bars and grilles on windows, and even steel shutters, to discourage vandals and thieves.
Katherine Town Council was told last night the “town looks shabby”.
“One of the things that is destroying the look of the town is those grilles,” a resident said.
“The government building down near the library has four smashed windows, they have been like that for six months.”
Break-ins on town shops have risen 167 per cent in the past year.
According to police, there were 275 commercial break-ins in the past year (to the end of November 2018) – which is about six per week.
One store on Katherine Terrace, The Sweetest Things, was last month broken into twice in three weeks. In the same time period there was also three attempted break-ins, which resulted in costly smashed windows.
The shop’s owner, Lana Read, said she is now planning on installing roller doors on her windows and a security grille across the front entrance, which has always been protected by security mesh.
“The landlord is going to pay for it, but ball park figure, I am thinking it would cost me about $30,000,” Ms Read said.
“It is a huge expense.”
The shop owner of just over four years said the added security could make her business more difficult to sell, in an already difficult market.
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“When I drive through towns with empty shops, and windows boarded up, I get my fuel, get something to eat and move on. To me it really says something about the crime rate in a town,” she said.
“We have been thinking about getting the extra security for six months, but because of the expense we put it off. Then the break-ins kept happening and it wasn’t just us, it was everyone, businesses, residences, cars.”
“We couldn’t put it off any longer. They will be up soon.
“It is really sad we have to go to this effort,” she said.
Just a few doors down, The Top Saddlery owner Julie Newton said she would not bar-up her front entrance.
“It is difficult to get people to walk down the street and come in as it is,” she said.
The Top Saddlery has been on the main street since 1993 and in the recent spate of town-wide theft and vandalism, employees have had to clean graffiti from the store front about once per week.
“It is up to the shop owners to take pride in running their business. To clean up their windows and the foot path,” she said.
“If they want business to take off in Katherine they need to take on the responsibility. No one else is going to do it.”
Roller doors as security protection are working for some.
One such retailer, Nikki Williamson has run her pop-up store Uniquely Territorian on the main street for about 18-months and has not been broken into.
She said she accounts her good luck to the roller door she secures each night.
“The store already had the roller door as it was a night club before, but it has saved me from being broken into,” she said.
“Sometimes I get into work and the door has been dented, but nothing has gotten through yet.”
While she said she would not likely move to a store with glass frontage – “I have seen the mindless break-ins and I realise the costs to any small business” – the increasing amount of stores forced into high security is “off-putting.”
“It is not a great look for the town.”
At the Katherine Town Council meeting last night Mayor Fay Miller responded to concerns about the town’s issues.
“The CEO and I have been meeting with the police Commander Hebb on a regular basis… to discuss what we do because unfortunately this is a problem across the Northern Territory. It is not isolated to us.
“We need to discuss what we do as regional councils and councils to try and improve the social behavior that we have got in our town.
“It is very depressing and it is continuing. It happened again this weekend, there were some break-ins which were very expensive to some businesses.
“We don’t like it either,” she said.
Ms Miller said council would continue to work with police despite the gap between policing and the justice system.
“We are going to continue working in every avenue that we can, but we will do that with the police who do the right thing, who do get these people.
“They do capture these people. And then we have got a gap in the judiciary,” she said.
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