A COLEDALE resident said his neighbourhood is beginning to resemble the crime-ridden streets of Compton in the USA with his once-quiet street the most recent victim of the property crime wave sweeping Tamworth.
Sixty-six-year-old Demas Tintner, of Dewhurst St, said a recent spate of what he believes is gang-related crime is upsetting and scaring the residents of his once-quiet street.
Two trail bikes were stolen from his backyard early Thursday morning, with one later found burnt out just two streets away.
Just a few hours later a neighbour’s dog was found dead, in what Dewhurst St residents believe is a deliberate attempt to silence their “alarm system”.
“She believes it was poisoned,” Mr Tintner said of the distraught neighbour who had lost her much-loved pet.
The Leader reported this week on five arson attempts around Green St, Matheson St and Hardy St overnight on Tuesday, with Oxley police hunting a group of youths in relation to the crimes.
Mr Tintner said he and other Dewhurst St residents believed they were related to youth gangs in the area, who were using basic intimidation techniques to scare local residents.
Several residents including Mr Tintner spoken to by The Leader referred to a “burn list”, a verbal warning to residents who caused trouble for the youths that their residence or vehicles would be set alight.
Short-term resident Paul said he had moved out of the area after a constant campaign of intimidation by a group of youths near his Cossa St home and said he’d often try to talk with them but they had scared him enough to move out.
“They’d come into the backyard, throw pot plants at the house. Our windows were always broken,” he said.
“I didn’t feel safe anymore. I felt like I had to be a soldier 24 hours a day, on patrol.”
He said it was a “great shame for Tamworth.”
“Police, politicians, they don’t seem to know what to do, but something needs to be done before the Country Music Capital is known as the arson capital,” he said.
Mr Tintner agreed, saying he had spoken to a steady stream of upset residents in the past few days who were fed up with the crime rate in their suburb.
“For 10 years I’ve gone out of my way not to upset anyone here,” he said. “Everybody is not impressed with what’s going on.
“We’ve got 20 or so kids in this street, too, that we’re worried about.
“If someone’s baiting dogs with poison, what’s to stop them attacking our kids?”
Mr Tintner said he moved into Coledale 10 years ago, in spite of being warned by friends about the area’s crime rate.
“A friend was aghast that I would consider a house in this area,” he said.
“But I’ve lived in South Sacramento and Bilston in England and those are rough areas.”
He said although the crime problems in Coledale had existed for years, they had only begun in the last few months for Dewhurst St residents and they were already fed up.
He said along with his experience, a mini-quad bike and Kawasaki 85 had also been stolen from Dewhurst St residents in recent months, with thieves taking the vehicles for joyrides and then disposing of them.
“What can you do? You don’t want to start living in a fortress.”
He said the last straw for him was the theft of his two motorbikes, costing him $5000 that he could ill-afford to replace.
“I’m a self-funded pensioner,” he said.
The bikes were not insured.
Mr Tintner said from the nature of the crimes occurring around the area, he believed they were related to initiation ceremonies for gangs.
“They walked past thousands of dollars worth of easily fence-able items to get to my bikes,” he said.
“Then they just burned one of them and left the other one lying on the ground a few streets away.”
“To steal them and just destroy them within 30 minutes? It’s not for personal gain, they’re just joyriding.”
His house backs onto the Goodwin St redevelopment, called “The Now Project”, but said the grass was more than a metre high and it wasn’t unusual to see burnt-out cars on the block.
He said Coledale residents had grown used to seeing burnt out cars, houses covered with police tape and the sound of police sirens in the night.
“There’s five burnt-out houses in Kenny Drive at the moment,” he said.
“Coledale is beginning to look like Compton.
“You wake up in the middle of the night with red and blue lights flashing in your house.”
He said the police who had attended his house on Thursday morning were polite and efficient but clearly frustrated at the wanton nature of the crimes.
Oxley Acting Inspector Josh McKenzie said police were aware there were gangs of youths in the area but said comparisons with places in the USA were not correct.
“Statistically the area known as Coledale is the highest crime area in the Tamworth region,” Sergeant McKenzie said.
“But the crime rate is not out of step with other similarly sized areas of country towns such as Orange and Bathurst.
“Police do have information that groups of youths are committing semi-organised crime and Oxley police are well aware that most of our crime originates there.
“Our crews are regularly tasked to patrol that area.”