Op-ed: Anti-Social behaviour getting out of hand

Tuesday 15 February 2022, The Examiner



It’s a strange, strange world we live in Master Jack - a 1967 song that could have been written today with Covid entering its third year, many businesses struggling and many people, particularly the vulnerable, afraid to leave the safety of their homes.


This makes it especially hard for businesses in our CBD who often struggle to compete with the suburbs given parking fees and availability of car spaces.


Obviously shopping in our suburbs is fantastic with ease of parking and adds to the colour of the area but we also need a vibrant CBD to keep our city alive. It needs to be somewhere people want to go, that is friendly and inviting. It must be disheartening for shop assistants day after day with often few customers and with a trend towards online shopping, particularly during Covid.


The last thing CBD businesses need is anti social behaviour, including theft that appears to be prevalent currently. I recently visited many stores in the Mall and the reaction was the same. They wanted help and they were frustrated. Some advised that there is often not enough business for two assistants, but safety demands that.


This hit a crescendo recently when Robin Smith from Coffee Republic was assaulted while trying to assist a store worker who was questioning a group of youths about items allegedly stolen from their store. This should not be happening anywhere, let alone in downtown Launceston.


I am told it is one particular young group who have been causing all the grief, so why is it so difficult to sort this out. In a recent stakeholder meeting to discuss anti social behaviour which included Tasmania Police, Commander Wilkinson told us the focus is on restorative justice – a system of criminal justice that focuses on the rehabilitation of offenders through reconciliation with victims and the community at large.


We know that locking people up doesn’t work and in many cases the young people offending have unfortunate home lives and no sense of community. In fact incarceration can give some of these offenders a whole new group or “family” to hang out with and to learn new skills from. It is about changing attitudes.


I have written in the past about my work as an independent person with Tasmania Police and without exception the young offenders I meet are always polite to me and willing to shake my hand. One on one is a very different situation to the bravado of being part of a group or a gang. All too often they are from families that either don’t care where they are, or simply cannot control them.


There is no doubting the potential of many of these young people but they need to be pointed in the right direction and then given assistance to stay on the right path. Sadly it seems it is far easier for them not to make change as I believe, rightly or wrongly, that fear of failure or ridicule from peers are often deciders and they become repeat offenders with little to no fear of, or respect for the Police.


Anti social behaviour can happen anywhere and last year some of the sporting arenas were also subject to groups who simply wanted to disrupt rather than join in. My understanding is the facilities worked together with schools and it is important that everyone takes some responsibility in trying to achieve change. How often do we hear “the behaviour we walk past, is the behaviour we accept”.


Obviously no-one is saying to step into a dangerous situation but neither should we turn a blind eye. If you see something that should not be happening, call the police and seek assistance. Always do so from a place of safety and never put yourself in harms way. If the matter is urgent dial 000 or for Police assistance dial 131 444.


While Police might be 10 minutes away, they might be just around the corner.

Graffiti is another form of anti social behaviour and I note that no one seems to deface the brightly painted utility boxes on streets, so well done to Council and the artists. Hopefully many more will be brightened up as graffiti seems to occur more on blank canvases.


Let’s make the most of the Summer we have left and get out and about if possible. While we need to be Covid safe it is said socialising increases your sense of happiness and wellbeing and may even help you live longer.


Rosemary Armitage MLC

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