Hunter teen criminals warned

ON GUARD: Police warnings.
ON GUARD: Police warnings.

SENIOR police have warned teen criminals they are facing long jail terms for menacing people for mobile phones and cash.

With two new police strike forces set up yesterday to combat the increased armed robberies across the Hunter, inner-city officers are also battling a dramatic rise in street robberies where individuals are being bashed and threatened with weapons for a few dollars and a phone.

Youths as young as 12 have allegedly used stand-over tactics in such attacks, with information released yesterday identifying at least 30 street robberies across the Newcastle City local area command since September.

That figure includes two more incidents on Tuesday night, one in the city when a 22-year-old was punched in the head before his wallet was taken and another when a man refused to hand over his valuables when a youth armed with a knife threatened him.

Newcastle City crime manager Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Humphrey said he was not sure if the attackers fully understood that they were risking their freedom.

‘‘They are committing serious crimes, offences with penalties which reflect how seriously the legislators and the community view them,’’ he said.

‘‘We are talking about up to 14 years for stealing from a person, [and up] to 25 years for doing the same, armed with a weapon.’’

Mr Humphrey said there had been 69 reported robberies in the Newcastle City local area command since September 1.

That figure included 30 robberies during which a weapon was produced, 30 that occurred outdoors, and 36 robberies of businesses, from banks to corner stores.

Nineteen people had been charged over a total of 24 robberies.

‘‘It is pretty clear that most of these are opportunistic street robberies of young people by young people,’’ Mr Humphrey said.

‘‘They are risking years in jail for a mobile phone.’’

The increased number of street robberies comes as Hunter police also try to curb a rise in armed robberies, with 50 hold-ups recorded throughout the region since December 29.

Strike Force Heinz was set up yesterday to look into at least six armed robberies on the western side of Lake Macquarie since February 10.

They include three attacks at Warners Bay and incidents at Woodrising, Toronto and Wangi Wangi.

Port Stephens detectives have also set up Strike Force Royalty to look into several armed robberies within their command.