‘Senseless: Inside Aussie town under siege

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A business owner in Alice Springs said he has had his bakery broken into 41 times as the town sees an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

For three years Darren Clarke has been running a Facebook page, Action for Alice, set up to raise awareness and share anecdotal photos and stories about the situation in the Central Australian town.

“This place is totally out of control. The violence on the streets is totally out of control,” he said.

The business owner says his bakery has been broken into 41 times during that period.

Images posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020Images posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020Images posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020Images posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020

“Something has got to be done,” he added.

The outback town is in the national spotlight following the release of fresh crime statistics from the Northern Territory police.

It revealed assaults and property offences had skyrocketed in the last 12 months to December 2022.

From December 1, 2021 to November 30 last year, assaults in the town increased by 43 per cent.

Domestic violence-related assaults increased by 53 per cent while alcohol-related assaults were up by 54 per cent.

The town’s mayor, Matt Paterson, has called on the Attorney-General to send in the Australian Federal Police or the military to help clean up the “senseless and destructive” behaviour.

“The flavour of the month right now is edged weapons, but before that it was ram-raids of buildings,” he told Today.

Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson wants the AFP or the military called in.Alice Springs Mayor Matt Paterson wants the AFP or the military called in.Action for Alice 2020 founder Darren Clark says crime in the Australian town is the worst he has seen in 25 years. Picture: SuppliedAction for Alice 2020 founder Darren Clark says crime in the Australian town is the worst he has seen in 25 years. Picture: SuppliedImages posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020Images posted to the Action for Alice 2020 Facebook page highlights the current crime spree occurring in Alice Springs. Picture: Facebook / Action for Alice 2020

“We have seen many businesses broken into and smashed up.”

Last year, the NT police launched Operation Drina to target anti-social behaviour in the town.

Since then, more than 200 people have been arrested and more than 300 infringement notices have been issued.

But the territory’s police commissioner Jamie Chalker vehemently rejected calls for the ADF to be deployed.

“We’re not going to arrest our way out of that,” he told ABC Darwin.

“I’m not sure the imagery of Australian soldiers … dealing with First Nations people in a way that sees them having to effect arrests of them and place them in vehicles and the like is really the imagery we want for Australia.”

A broader conversation, he said, was needed about what is driving the crime and noted the increase in alcohol-related harm since the end of long-term alcohol restrictions in the Top End.

“This is not simply a police matter,” he said.

NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said it wasn’t simply a police matter. Picture: Glen CampbellNT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said it wasn’t simply a police matter. Picture: Glen Campbell

As pressure mounts for the federal government to intervene, the Prime Minister’s office confirmed Anthony Albanese will travel to the remote town.

He will meet with Chief Minister Natasha Fyles and former leader, and now Lingiari MP, Marion Scrymgour and speak with members of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress.

Mr Albanese was reportedly planning to visit the town last December before being struck down by his second Covid diagnosis.

In an open letter to the Prime Minister, Country Liberal senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price implored him to support her legislation to reinstate alcohol bans.

“Territorians aren’t stupid we knew lifting the Stronger Futures Legislation would cause absolute chaos and it has,” she said.

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