Communal crime

FOR half an hour or so each day I feel that I’m surrounded by violence, a sense that fades but never disappears through the rest of the day until it is refreshed at the beginning of the next day. That’s when I read this paper, and for several years I have been left by that reading with a mounting sense that my community is becoming more violent, more dangerous. It’s not an impression that has formed over a torrid few weeks or an occasional account of an ugly incident.

Some will blame the messenger, this and other newspapers and media, but a newspaper in particular has a responsibility to report significant crime, and it is likely that in previous decades the measure of significance was much lower than it is today. Often it is the persistent reporting of increasing crime that can pressure distracted or reluctant politicians and police to give the problem the resources it needs.

Come with me while I look through yesterday’s Herald.

On the front page under the heading ‘‘Senseless’’ is a photo and account of a young man being punched and kicked in the head and chest by four other young men even after he becomes unconscious. Sickening, and my disgust was not eased by the news that a judge reduced on appeal the nine-month jail sentence on one of the attackers to a 12-month non-custodial order.

What can drive four young men to kick the head and body of an unconscious person? They may well blame alcohol, but few who are affected by alcohol do or want to kick anyone’s head, conscious or unconscious. Maybe my horror has been exacerbated by the publication of graphic photos of this and other violent incidents captured by security cameras, and of the video footage on this paper’s website, and if so it’s a horror we must have if we as a community are to respond more effectively.

Over to page three and I read of two Newcastle University students being threatened as they walked through a university carpark on Friday night, and while it appears they are not international students the long-running predation on international students at and near the university is to Newcastle’s great shame. The assault and robbery of Indian, Asian and other overseas students seen by cowardly thugs as easy targets angers me more than most crime. I am angry, too, that the university and the police don’t seem to be able to do much about it.

A girl aged 14 and a boy aged 12 have been charged with intimidating the two students on Friday night, and if their parents can’t offer an acceptable explanation as to why these children were unsupervised at 7.40pm why shouldn’t they be charged too?

Over to page five and a home invasion at Rutherford, with an occupant hit over the head with a metal bar. Not all home invasions are related to drugs.

Page seven and we read that three men in their 20s have been charged with assaulting a police officer in Newcastle West in the wee hours of Saturday morning, an assault that has left him with a broken cheekbone. Police had approached the group, and were allegedly jostled by men in the group before the assault, in response to a publican’s complaint that he’d been assaulted at his Newcastle West hotel.

Over to page nine and as well as accounts in court of gang violence that led to the death of a young Raymond Terrace man we read of the hunt for two men who used a knife to rob a Cooranbong service station. Armed robberies have become so common in the Hunter that they are approaching the everyday inevitability of petty crime. Many are accompanied by a violence that will have a lifelong impact on the victim.

Crime affects me and very probably you even if we are not yet touched by it directly. We restrict our movement at night, the especially vulnerable will be fearful and confined to their home, and inevitably we lose confidence in the police and the courts. Probably the most pervasive impact on me is my concern for my children, in particular my teenage son.

Do you see your community becoming more violent? Is there an explanation? A remedy?

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