Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Civic dubbed a 'pit of harassment' - News - General - The Canberra Times

In a familiar pattern in Australia alternative teens face hassle from authorities and shop keepers:

Civic dubbed a 'pit of harassment' - News - General - The Canberra Times

20 January 2008

CIVIC shop owners have expressed fear and outrage at what they say is a growing culture of anti-social behaviour and pack youth mentality in the area.

Coupled with the complaints were allegations police were complacent in patrolling the area.

According to one retail outlet owner, the Beats Police office looking over Garema Place is staffed only at night and periodically at weekends, allowing unlawful and aggressive behaviour to escalate.

But according to an ACT Policing spokesman, the office is not a police station and is used only when Beats foot patrols are on duty. "The community expects high-visibility policing and for the beats teams to be away from their desks and out on the streets. In close proximity to Garema Place, the City Police Station is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and there for anyone who is in need of assistance," he said.

None of the business operators Sunday Canberra Times spoke to in and around Garema Place were willing to be named, citing safety reasons. "A pit of harassment and aggression. That sums this place up," another owner said. "Once these kids know that their scare tactics are working, they are like vultures to a dead carcass. They just won't go away."

The Sunday Canberra Times spoke to a group of youths in Garema Place yesterday about the complaints raised by business owners. Twenty-one year-old Natalie Stevenson, of Braddon, cuts a striking figure, her short bleached hair contrasted by a uniform of black on black, a ripped pink singlet tied around her waist. She acknowledges her appearance is out of the ordinary but says she and her similarly attired friends are misunderstood by a majority of the public.

"We get just as much abuse from passers-by and shop owners. They call us emos [a term for a subgenre of youth] and tell us where to go. We have been followed store to store by security guards who reckon we are going to steal from them," she said.

"I work in Civic, hang out here and have just as much right to this place as anyone. It is a free world. We are not aggressive. It is narrow-minded people who are so quick to place us in that basket."

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