Westside Plaza is under attack from groups of youths who are endangering other shoppers, abusing staff and stealing from stores, with some even allegedly threatening to burn shops down.
Brent Dawson, owner of Dawson’s Bakehouse, told the Truth, “they come through on their scooters and mountain bikes with no regard for other people. They could cause serious injury or worse if they hit a little kid or elderly person.
“And if you say anything, they just laugh at you because they know we can’t do anything. If we do, we’d be the ones who get in trouble. So as soon as [the centre’s] security leaves, in they come.”
Mr Dawson said Woolworths, The Reject Shop and Best and Less were all stores that had been targeted and had items stolen from them in the past week alone.
“They have all had things stolen from them. EB Games could be the hardest hit, they have the cops there at least once a week,” Mr Dawson said.
A staff member at Best and Less spoke to us on condition of anonymity and said they thought the youths had definitely worked out the best times to attack.
“It’s mainly weekends that we have a lot of trouble with the kids, usually in the late afternoon. I think the kids have caught on to when we don’t have [centre] security,” said the employee.
“We’ve had groups of kids in the store, stealing, threatening to burn the shop down. They’re obviously not scared.
“It’s just been an ongoing thing. All the tenants here have had either thefts or dealings with these groups of kids. There was an incident last weekend where a group of kids had bailed two girls up in the toilets.
“With their numbers, they are a nuisance. I just feel like it is only a matter of time before something bad is going to happen.”
Many people who work at the shopping centre are prevented from speaking to media by their head offices.
EB Games’ local staff were unwilling to talk on the record, but did confirm to the Truth that they have to call police at least once a week.
It is a similar situation at the Reject Shop where an employee confirmed calls to the authorities happened multiple times a week.
A Woolworths’ spokesperson told us, “there is no place for abusive behaviour anywhere in our community.
“Our team members do the very best they can to help customers, and deserve to be treated with respect on the job.
“The majority of customers do the right thing when shopping in our stores.
“On the occasion that shoplifting occurs, we work closely with police to help identify and ban offenders from returning to our stores.”
Plaza manager, Arthur Clifton, refused to speak to us, other than a curt, “no comment.”
We have contacted both the Barrier Police District and the police media team several times for comment on this issue. Despite several emails and calls from multiple staff from our editorial office, we’ve so far had zero response.
Meanwhile, the situation continues to be a problem and an issue for those who work at Westside Plaza.