Armed attacks prompt hotel alert

POLICE and industry leaders today called for pubs in Rockhampton to do more to cut the risk of being attacked after the latest armed robbery to shock the licensed trade.

Regional crime co-ordinator Cal Lynch said Rockhampton police were currently investigating several armed robberies in which offenders had aggressively demanded money from staff.

“Whilst the offences remain unsolved, police are making progress with their investigations canvassing a wide range of information and intelligence,” he said.

In the latest raid two attackers, one armed with a tomahawk and the other wielding a knife, made off with a considerable sum of money from a till in the pokie room at the Park Avenue Hotel after threatening a barmaid.

Detective Inspector Lynch said the raid, about 11pm on Friday, was part of a disturbing trend, and said community co-operation and awareness was essential to resolving the situation.

“We are asking the community to be much more vigilant, and to simply keep an eye on premises trading late at night. Taking note that console operators in service stations, or attendants in late night convenience stores are okay as we travel past is essential. Report any suspicious activity,” he said.

“There are only a small number of businesses in the city open very late at night – such as hotels, service stations, fast food outlets.

“We as a community heavily rely on the people who work in these businesses whether it’s fuel, food or entertainment. We encourage business to work with us, take the time to consider their vulnerability, look at their cash handling procedures, maximise crime prevention recommendations, minimise their cash on hand, and most importantly, be mindful of their obligations with respect to safety of their staff.”

He said such attacks generally involved a degree of planning, with offenders casing businesses beforehand and considering the risks associated with things such as CCTV and visibility to the public.

“We have crime prevention officers who are able to assist in this regard.

“From an investigative perspective from time to time police can get frustrated with the quality of CCTV. It would be great if business owners and managers considered their vulnerability and whether any improvements could be made as quality CCTV footage is invaluable to investigators.”

Ascot Hotel owner Will Cordwell, who represents the Queensland Hotel Association in Central Queensland, is in full agreement.

He said that in 25 years in business in Rockhampton the threat had never been as great.

“This style of violent robbery hasn’t occurred as often in the past. The thieves are becoming more brazen and more desperate,” he said.

Mr Cordwell said business owners had to respond to the increased threat by being more cautious and by continually emptying their tills so there was only ever a small amount of cash available.

“You can talk about CCTV, but you can’t cover every angle and most of these raiders are very good at covering themselves up. And you can talk about employing security guards, but they are very expensive and many smaller pubs and shops simply can’t afford it.

“But we can make sure there is less money sitting around. If the pickings are not so rich, maybe fewer of these criminals will consider it worth the risk to carry out an armed attack.”

The Morning Bulletin understands the PA Hotel is considering employing security in the wake of the attack.


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