Crime has reached such alarming levels in Woodberry that residents are too afraid to walk their streets during the day.
A gang culture in the suburb is to blame for a spike in thefts, break and enters and assaults – offences that have left householders reeling and fearing for their safety both day and night.
Neighbourhood Watch Hunter Region Co-ordinator Bill Hackney said residents have had enough and have agreed to form an exclusive watch group to target crime in their suburb.
There is an existing Beresfield, Tarro, Woodberry Neighbourhood Watch Group which was formed about 30 years ago but Mr Hackney said a new generation of residents has now come forward.
He said their aim was to focus specifically on Woodberry, tackling crime through social media and the formation of the suburb’s own watch group.
“This is about getting out there, holding regular meetings and letting residents know the right channels to take when reporting crime,” Mr Hackney said.
“Woodberry residents are not only too scared to leave their homes at night, they’re too scared to walk their dogs during the day,” he said.
During the month from March 15 to April 15, 13 vehicles were stolen in the suburb. Police figures show there were also 15 stealings, 19 break and enters, seven assaults, 11 drug detections and nine reports of malicious damage. “These are alarming figures for a suburb the size of Woodberry,” Mr Hackney said.
“Police do know of these gangs that are operating in Woodberry and they are working slowly towards getting a result, but this also means that the community needs to work together as a group and not give in to this gang mentality,” he said.
“I’d like the community to be aware and embrace this new Neighbourhood Watch Group.
“It may not be the whole solution but a good part of this is starting with education and having faith in the system which can sometimes be frustrating.”
Mr Hackney said a recent meeting to gauge public interest in the new watch group attracted higher numbers than anticipated. “This next generation group will focus on social media to post crime prevention tips, vehicle and household safety and the right ways to report crime.” Meetings will be held on the first Tuesday of the month at 7.30pm in Beresfield Senior Citizens’ Hall with Port Stephens and Maitland Command representative Senior Constable Kel Boak.
Beresfield Police Station opens one day a week for inquiries only.