State Member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison has uncovered a bucket of big State bucks set aside to fund CCTV in business hubs across some Sydney electorates and she wants a piece of it.
Ms Aitchison is demanding the State Government expand the eligibility of the $5m Community and Small Business CCTV Fund to include the Maitland electorate - in particular Rutherford.
The Labor MP delivered a Notice of Motion in the NSW Parliament recently calling on the Liberals and Nationals Government to expand the criteria to include small businesses and community groups across rural and regional NSW.
And Rutherford business operators support her plan. For months now businesses in the west have been the target of crime, which according to local retail worker Lee Lester, is resulting in residents retreating to their homes for safety and in extreme cases, selling up and moving suburbs.
"The crime, which ranges from stealing to assault and vandalism, has people scared to venture out - some are actually moving away from the area. It's not right and it's not fair," Mr Lester said.
In February 2019 Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a $5m CCTV Fund available for small businesses in 10 Local Government Areas across Western and South West Sydney. Recent questions to the Government from Ms Aitchison revealed that at February 2020 only $254,270 (5%) had been granted from the allocated $5m.
"There has been a massive underspend with this program as there is still $4,745,730 unallocated," Ms Aitchison said. "Our small businesses and community organisations are crying out for assistance to help address crime hotspots. This Sydney-centric government is ignoring regional communities. Places like Maitland experience crime too and deserves to have access to the same bucket of money.
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"One of the Premier's own priorities outlines the Government's commitment to preventing and reducing the level of crime to support the growth of safer communities. We know that where CCTV is used, crime rates go down. The Premier needs to explain why she's only interested in preventing crime in Sydney."
Mr Lester said business operators have had enough.
"Crime is occurring every day now, not just at weekends," he said. He said male and female teenagers in the Rutherford area, aged from as young as 12 to about 1, are the cause of torment and intimidation.
"Unfortunately this is a generational thing. Some of these kids have nowhere to go and I think that somehow we have to break this cycle. If CCTV can help I'm all for it," he said.
Shopping trolleys hurled through shop fronts, vehicles broken into, stock stolen from shops and people of all ages being abused and assaulted has been regularly documented in The Mercury.
"I'm happy with Ms Aitchison's strategy and I have also started a petition to try to have a curfew placed on youth in the area," Mr Lester said.
He wants to see all stakeholders from retailers to politicians and police and PCYC officials, team together to come up with strategies to eradicate the problem.
"There has to be something in this for those kids. They need a distraction and I'm all about prevention - not just lock them up and throw away the key. We have to give them the responsibility for a good purpose," he said.
A Neighbourhood Watch meeting at Club Maitland City on July 15 will discuss the issues. The meeting will start at 7pm and Mr Lester is urging people to attend.
"The more ideas and views we have on this the better," Mr Lester said.
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