THE ACT is in the midst of an armed-robbery epidemic, with cowardly thugs choosing soft targets in our suburbs at will.
Police are hunting down violent, armed offenders who have threatened and intimidated staff working in small businesses right across the capital.
No shift worker deserves to have a machete, syringe or a knife waved in their face while they are working late at night or early in the morning – yet it keeps happening.
Apart from the emotional and mental anguish suffered by victims of these crimes, small-business owners can be financially wrecked by an armed robbery. These crims aren’t dumb, either – why knock off a bank with all the alarms in place when you can pick on the local corner store, or petrol station?
These smaller supermarkets, servos and bottle shops often have a decent amount of money in store and usually are staffed by young people or others working a second job to earn some extra income.
ACT Victims of Crime commissioner, John Hinchey, told me that workers involved in the robberies are often left psychologically scarred – with long-term effects including depression, anxiety and, in some cases, post-traumatic stress.
When pressed on the issue, Police Minister Joy Burch admitted it’s “very concerning” and had every confidence ACT Police were working to bring these thugs to justice.
Authorities have also urged small businesses to better protect themselves with CCTV and, of course, the standard line of: “It’s far better to comply with a violent offender’s demands and hand over the money”.
However, this can only do so much. For instance, take the CCTV footage released by police of the aggravated robbery in Bonython where a man, wearing the coward’s garb of a hoodie and facial coverings, burst into the Spar supermarket on Hurtle Avenue armed with a knife.
I hope we never get to the point where corner stores or petrol stations resemble the US, where staff are behind protective glass with weapons of their own placed under the counter ready to defend themselves.
Police believe the recent spate of violent offences are linked and I’m told it’s only a matter of time before the law catches up with a couple of organised criminal groups, of whom evidence is being gathered.
My main hope is that when they are caught and the usual excuses of drug addiction are offered up our magistrates bear in mind that Canberra has had enough.
I also hope they are caught before someone is critically injured or worse.
Marcus Paul is the host of “Canberra Live”, 3pm-6pm, weekdays on 2CC