By Gurbir Singh:
Residents of Hamilton’s ‘affluent’ northern suburbs are up in arms against unabated car thefts/break-ins, and are crying hoarse at lack of any credible action to catch the perpetrators.
“Enough is enough,” says one resident, and she is not alone in conveying that frustration.
The angry reactions of several residents of Rototuna, Flagstaff and Huntington areas voiced on social media clearly convey how criminals have shattered the peace of their neighbourhood.
Almost daily, residents report waking up to find their vehicles stolen, car windows smashed, wallets stolen, homes burgled and finding strangers in their driveway or backyards in middle of night.
Even this morning, residents have posted three separate instances of suspicious behaviour of youngsters, a suspicious car ‘casing the street’ at 2.30 am, and another at 1.30am.
Such incidents are making residents feel unsafe, and they are demanding action.
“This is not the way we are supposed to live,” commented a shocked resident on the Residents of Rototuna/Rototuna North community group’s Facebook page.
“Looks like Rototuna is under siege,” one wrote, and “we need to take back our neighbourhood,” commented another.
Within the first three hours of an informal poll initiated yesterday by City Councillor, James Casson in that group, residents reported “48 vehicles as stolen/ broken into, 9 burglary, 3 attempted burglary, 18 general thefts and 12 cases of intentional damage…”
“The numbers are disturbing and I’m sure the numbers are smaller than actual criminal activities being committed,” Casson told NewsViews when asked about the crime surge in the city.
“I’m not saying it is a North East Hamilton problem alone, but the residents of Flagstaff/Rototuna are getting active in reporting not necessarily to Police, but are advising through Facebook pages.
“The public have had enough, they deserve positive action …I am sure the Police are equally frustrated and will want to make inroads and make arrests,” he added.
There have been calls to set up community patrols and vigilante groups to safeguard community.
“We are all entitled to an update, before the residents take law into their own hands & the wrong people end up on the wrong side of the law,” writes a resident.
Another frustrated resident comments, “One day someone will have had enough of this shit and take things into their own hands…”
Similar views are echoed by other residents and a few have gone to the extreme and talk of ‘street justice” and “laying traps” to catch criminals in the act.
Taking law into their own hands does not find support with Casson.
He told NewsViews, “Taking law into your hands can be very dangerous with severe consequences. Criminals carry knives, screwdrivers and I do not want to see a member of the public getting hurt.
“There is also the risk of locating a purely innocent person who may get confused as a baddy …(and) we do not want a well meaning member of the public being held criminally accountable for a rash moment in time,” he added.
But, residents are demanding to know when this will stop and what action are the police taking.
“What happened to the Labour election promise to re establish all community police stations in their first term?” asks a local resident.
Another remarks,“ I think the people who need some serious pressure are the MP’s – in particular the government ones…”
Casson agrees, “We have to put pressure on both Police and the Government … I have submitted a petition to Parliament to have Government urge Police to consider the Flagstaff Police station be re-opened for a trial period as a patrol base… so that the north east of Hamilton is sufficiently, proactively patrolled,” he said.
In a response to a resident seeking answers in that group, Jamie Strange, Labour List MP commented:
“I have been in regular discussion with Police Minister Stuart Nash, pushing for the re-opening of the Flagstaff Police Station, even as recent as two weeks’ ago…”
Meanwhile, David Bennett, MP for Hamilton East, has tried to reassure residents that the police are not keeping quiet. In his comments to NewsViews today, Bennett said:
“The Police have confirmed they are actively seeking out offenders in Rototuna, so let’s play our part and keep an eagle eye out, keep in contact with neighbours and take preventative measures to stop giving criminals opportunities to offend.
“Neighbourhood Support Groups and recording your serial numbers in the SNAP (Serial Number Action Partnership) system are also good precautionary steps to look into.
“Locals are also working on delivering a petition to Government to reopen the Flagstaff community police station as a base for police patrollers in the northern suburbs,” he added.
Though some residents are critical of the police inaction (“they are more interested in issuing speed tickets” as one commented), others still believe the police are doing the best they can within the resources they have.
Several residents actually blame the lack or absence of consequences for criminals, especially juveniles.
Another one comments, “They know nothing will happen to them, even if they’re caught.”
“Put the kids on house arrest with anklets, give them community service for the remainder of this year’s school holidays to keep them occupied..,” suggests another.
Another concerned group member was more vocal in criticising the treatment criminals get. This morning she wrote:
“A hot shower, dry clothes and a milo??? …throw them a cell wet muddy clothes and all …don’t reward them for their uncivil behaviour.”
The comment that fairly sums up how unsafe the residents feel is, “I might as well move back to Fairfield, this place is turning into the hood.”
Hopefully, Bennett’s reassurance and Casson’s call for a “proactive response” from the Police will set the public’s mind at ease soon.