Comment: Citizens arrest or arresting the citizens?

Over the past few months a Facebook page in Tamworth titled Take Tamworth Back has been gathering followers, momentum, and now it seems confidence.

There appears to be two reasons for this; one is that crime is not only on the rise in parts of Tamworth, but is on the cusp of being out of control, and the other is that the residents of these areas have had enough and now appear to not only be demanding action, but acting themselves.

The page functions well in some regards, in that it acts as a real time monitor of happenings around the area, with people posting when and where they have seen untoward people, and almost daily when and where they have caught people in or around their property.

The problem now is that the group is going out on active “patrols”, advertising for positions on these patrols, and posting CCTV footage of (alleged) young offenders.

This has obviously caught the attention of the local police, who not only fear it will lead to further violence and assaults - as happened in Alice Springs last year from information posted on a similar page - but also that publicly posting the CCTV footage will make it inadmissible as evidence.

The police also claim that the majority of these crimes are being committed by the same handful of people, it is just that they can’t catch them red handed. Although it appears that even when they do it does not take long before they find themselves out arresting the same individual again – it must be incredibly frustrating.

The police have also said that a spike in crime like this is seasonal, and that perhaps it is students on school holidays with not much else to do. Obviously these kids would be top of the class and attending every day during the term.

Meanwhile the majority of local residents seem to be behind the page and the anti-crime movement, claiming that public response time can be quicker and more effective than police responses, while many use it to know when these sorts are out and about in the neighbourhood.

Take Tamworth Back claim they are an effective deterrent to these criminals, but how long will it be before someone gets hurt, either a could-be criminal, or a resident looking to defend his or her property? It seems, in this current climate, not long at all.

In the meantime the community needs to put pressure on our elected officials to address the underlying issues long term.


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