Lesley Munro says her charity for the disabled has been broken into 20 times in the past two years. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Not even charities and emergency service teams have been spared by a recent spate of vehicle thefts in the Top End, with one repeat victim at a loss as to how to prevent more crime.
Lesley Munro runs the local chapter of the Riding for the Disabled Association and said its latest break-in was the 20th in just two years.
“I really don’t know what the answer is,” she said, standing in a large paddock in an outer suburb of Palmerston.
The charity offers work experience, activities for community groups and some youth diversion courses.
But it specialises in disability support — 60 to 70 people with intellectual disabilities participate in sporting, recreational and therapeutic programs with horses at the site.
Last week, Ms Munro, who lives on the premises, woke to find a vehicle had been stolen and an on-site office damaged, meaning classes had to be cancelled before it was eventually recovered.
“What really, really hurts me is they’re targeting the vulnerable in our society: people with disabilities.
“It just breaks my heart to think that there are some people that just don’t care.”
Palmerston commercial break-ins
- January: 23
- February: 32
- March: 25
- April: 32
- May: 36
- June: 23
Source: Northern Territory Police
Crime statistics published by Northern Territory Police show a spike in commercial break-ins across the years ending in June 2017 and June 2018, when incidents increased by more than 40 per cent.
Motor vehicle thefts and house break-ins, meanwhile, measured slight decreases in the same period.
Data for the most recent quarter is yet to be released.
Short of employing a security guard, Ms Munro said she didn’t know how to prevent further burglaries — even the police have told her they were stumped.
“We’ve got CCTV cameras, we’ve got security lighting, we’ve got electronic gates, we’ve got everything,” she told ABC Radio Darwin‘s Kate O’Toole.
“To put shutters here, which we’re going to have to do, it’s $4,000, and for a not-for-profit organisation, a volunteer community organisation, that’s a lot of money.”
Ms Munro says vehicles have been stolen, property damaged and horses let out. (ABC Radio Darwin: Jesse Thompson)
Just one street away, a vehicle owned by a private traffic management company was found crashed into a pandanus tree after being joy-ridden through bushland.
“In 2016, we got broken into here eight times,” owner Chris Boyd said.
“Consequently our 2017 insurance premium went up by $20,000 so we had to wear that cost.
“But each time something goes wrong, we’ve got to go recover the vehicle, somebody’s got to get to work on an insurance claim, police reports.”
The business is based in Parap, but the vehicle was stolen from private property in Palmerston.
“We’re down one vehicle in our fleet so we’ve got to then replace that in the short term until the insurance company decides what they’re going to do,” Mr Boyer said.
“It’s all time and money.”
He said the break-ins had decreased since 2017, but believed the high rate of offending in the area suggested the justice system was flawed.
Further down the highway, volunteer firefighters from Bushfires NT have had to call in a replacement vehicle as they head into a day of severe fire danger in parts of the Top End.
It comes as one of its vehicles was stolen near Noonamah last week.
“It’s been taken up extensively by social media — a lot of people have been sharing the story — but unfortunately it hasn’t led to the recovery of the vehicle,” chief fire control officer Andrew Turner said.
“I can’t understand why somebody would take this community asset.
“It’s only got one real use and that’s to put fires out, but I’m guessing the only other reason someone else might take it is to pull it apart.”
Ms Munro said she was at a loss as to why she and others continued to be targeted.
“We don’t have any money on the property; we don’t have any alcohol; we don’t have anything like that,” she said.
“We just seem to be a soft target.”