THE Tamworth community has been extremely supportive of a local businessman’s unorthodox – and possibly illegal – solution to deal with the youths who vandalised his shopping centre.
On yesterday’s front page of The Leader, shown left, The Atrium arcade’s managing director Bruce Read threatened to upload CCTV footage to social networking sites of the young boys he says caused $5000 worth of damage when they smashed the centre’s doors last Sunday afternoon.
He says he has received a torrent of support from the community who, like him, have had enough of the city’s juvenile crime problem.
“People are sick of it – any retailer or home owner who’s been broken into is fed up with the unacceptable and antisocial behaviour,” Mr Read said.
Mr Read confirmed he would put the footage on YouTube and Facebook in an attempt to make it “go viral” and air it on a big-screen
television in the centre, as soon as next week.
He says the youths have until then to come and see him, with their parents, to “man up” and apologise.
Mr Read’s decision has not come lightly and while he is aware of the possible legal ramifications of exposing the accused juveniles’ identities, he is prepared to stick by his decision.
“I don’t, as a general rule, break the law,” he said.
“I would like to do it quietly and have them come and apologise.”
The local juvenile justice issue was brought up again at Tamworth’s second law and order meeting at the end of August when the community felt youths weren’t being held accountable for their crimes.
Mr Read said he attended the first meeting last year on the issue and nothing had been done since.
“History has proven the current system is ineffectual – we need a three strikes and you’re out policy,” he said.
The Leader first reported on Mr Read’s decision yesterday and the overwhelming majority or readers were in favour of his solution.
“What a great decision by this man. It is time the providers of services in our town took a stand on these young hooligans and publicly shamed them,” one reader said.
“Why not make them accountable for what they do? The laws in Australia need to be tougher,” another said.
One reader questioned whether posting the footage to YouTube would encourage other juveniles to do the same thing.
“It will bring them 15 minutes of fame and make them heroes to the like-minded,” they said.
The Leader’s Facebook followers also weighed in on the debate, saying they agree with Mr Read’s stance.
Janene McGill said kids knew they would get away with their crimes and had no fear of police or the justice system as a result.
“Hell yes I stand by him,” she said.
“They often know their so called ‘rights’ better than most law abiding citizens.”
Cecelia Green said they should be punished.
“Not just a slap on the wrist,” she said.
While it is understood charges are yet to be laid against the accused boys, all believed to be under 14 years old, they could be dealt with under the Young Offenders Act.
A legal expert said, while it was “difficult to determine the legalities without knowing any specifics of the case,” it wasn’t automatically illegal to expose the youths’ identities just because they were juveniles.
“The main problem arises if the youths are involved in criminal proceedings,” he said.
The expert said if the youths were charged, it would trigger the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act which “makes it an offence to publish or broadcast any name, information, picture or other material that identifies the person.”
He said it was less likely someone would face legal consequences if the youths did not make it to court.
Online comments from The Leader’s readers:
Sparky: “Good for you Bruce. It’s about time someone did something about these little thugs. Now, if we could find their parents and hold them accountable...”
nellie: “Mr Read will have a lot of people who support his ideas when they read this article. The current system is not working. The parents and the education system need to be brought into the mix to help solve the problem.”
James: “I am sure once these pictures are circulated someone in the family will recognise them and they will finally be reigned in by their parents – that is if their parents even care what they are doing in the first place.”
Be Counted: “Why are we so afraid of making people accountable for their actions?”
Kelela: “They deserve to be named and shamed.”
sick of crime: “Thank goodness for people like Bruce. These kids are only doing this because they know nothing will be done to them.”
bernie: “Why are kids this young going around the streets on their own?”