Sunday trade to increase violence

GANG violence will escalate with the introduction of Sunday trading in Rockhampton next weekend.

That was the scary prediction yesterday from Stockland Rockhampton tenant of 16 years, Jack Kennedy.

Mr Kennedy said he had witnessed a dramatic increase in the occurrence of teenage gang-related offences in the shopping centre over the past decade.

His comments come in the wake of the unprovoked gang bashing of a 15-year-old Rockhampton girl at Stockland last Thursday.

The primary reason for the escalation in violence, Mr Kennedy said, was the introduction of late night trading.

“Parents are using the centre as a child-minding facility, they need to be held accountable,” he said.

“There are problem kids as young as 10 and 11 that come in here on Thursday nights, unsupervised, prowling around looking for action.

“They will get wind that there is a fight somewhere, word will get round and they go like bait fish; 100 kids running through thecentre, with their phones out filming and taking photos.”

Mr Kennedy, a victim of the under-age gangs himself, detailed to The Morning Bulletin how his store had been ransacked four times in the past 12 months.

“Teenagers broke into my shop and stole over $7000; we had CCTV footage, we knew who the kids were, we knew their names and I reported it to the police, but nothing happened,” he said.

“Two weeks later the same kids broke into my store again.”

Seven-day trading is due to commence in Rockhampton on January 31, much to Mr Kennedy’s dismay.

“We are going into our worst time of year; people have to pay back Christmas credit card bills, there are back to school expenses, rates have gone up, yet we are told we have to trade an extra day.

“It costs us more to operate on a Sunday due to the higher penalty rates, it is our quietest time of year, and now due to the gangs people are too frightened to shop here…We are losing money!”

The shop owner admits that the problem with security at Stockland Rockhampton lies not with the quantity, but with the quality of personnel and says that a heavy security presence next Thursday night is not the answer.

“The answer lies with an effective and professional security presence in the centre at all times coupled with parents being aware of where there children are and what they are doing.”

“Any parent who thinks that their children are innocently visiting shopping centres on Thursday nights should come in and have a look for yourselves.

“This is a social problem, or anti-social problem I should say; it needs to be dealt with by federal, state and local politicians, they need to seriously look at how this can fixed.”

Mr Kennedy does not place the blame with centre management.

“I think Stockland are doing what they can,” Mr Kennedy said.

“They are stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Stockland Rockhampton were contacted yesterday but did not comment.

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