Street justice - police step in amid reports of vigilante groups in crime-ridden suburbs

POLICE have issued a stern warning to vigilante groups that have taken it upon themselves to protect their neighbourhoods from thieves.

It comes in the wake of report that residents in areas in Windmill Hill, as well as Kingswood estate, have mounted “neighbourhood watch on wheels” to keep a look out for would-be offenders. More than 100 residents attended a public crime meeting in Kingswood last weekend and vowed to set up a roster of nightly patrols of the neighbourhood.

Group spokesman David Briggs said residents could not help but be fearful.

“The meeting was very good because people were very distraught and anxious about what was happening,” he said.

“The feeling was not do anything silly, but mainly observe and monitor.”

Mr Briggs denied they were a vigilante mob, rather a  group doing what they could to bolster security.

He said during the day residents had been watching for cars or people they don’t know with the view to report back to police.

“There is a fair bit of anxiety among people living here so we resolved to do something about it and not sit back,” he said.

“Every night they have a roster and they are giving up their time, just to try and let everyone know that the place is being watched and we’re doing what we can to protect them.”

Another public meeting could be in the pipeline in the new year as well as contributions to hire a security firm to carry out extra patrols.

But Oxley Acting Superintendent Jeff Budd has played down the reactions.

“In Kingswood there have been two break-and-enters and one stealing for the month of December,” he said.

“Obviously the residents of Kingswood feel threatened by the fact there has been crime out there, but by comparison with the rest of the city, there is no real concern.

“The evidence we have so far is the citizens of Kingswood have had a lot of information they have kept to themselves and they haven’t shared it with police so we haven’t been able to react. So the message is, give us all the information you can and we will do our best to react to it.”

But taking matters into their own hands was not an option, he said.

“I think the ground that some of these groups are already covering in terms of doing their own security and essentially vigilante is very dangerous, they put themselves and the public at risk,” he said.

“They have no training, no skill set, and their actions could quite easily escalate a really simple issue. For these people who don’t have uniforms and aren’t identifiable and confront a potential criminal, it has serious implications for themselves and if they make a mistake they will get charged with criminal offences.”

* Leave crime-fighting to those best qualified – police: see editorial

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