Rochester business owners consider collective action on crime

Rochester business owners are considering banding together and hiring a security company to do regular nightly patrols to try put an end to burglaries.

Mitre 10 owner Matt Hawker and Sportspower owner Darren Pain are among those looking at the idea.

They hope more businesses in the town will come on board, so collectively the endeavour becomes more cost-efficient and they can afford more frequent patrols.

“We don’t have a 24-hour police presence, and never will… So we need to make sure we’ve got other forms of security,” Mr Pain said.

Rochester Mitre 10 owner Matt Hawker and Rochester Sportspower owner Darren Pain are among the business owners considering contributing to private security patrols in the town. Picture: NONI HYETT

Rochester Mitre 10 owner Matt Hawker and Rochester Sportspower owner Darren Pain are among the business owners considering contributing to private security patrols in the town. Picture: NONI HYETT

Mr Hawker last suffered an attempted break-in at his store just last week, when the would-be thieves tried to smash the glass front door.

Police believe the same people were also responsible for an attempted break-in at Rochester Motorcycles and a burglary at Epsom hardware store Tools Unlimited that same morning.

Mr Hawker said alarms were no deterrent to thieves, with Mr Pain adding that by the time they arrived at their shops, the offenders were gone.

Murray Plains MP and leader of The Nationals in Victoria, Peter Walsh, last March submitted a petition to parliament calling for more police in Rochester, but said to date that had not happened.

Mr Walsh said continuing crimes were an indication of the need for more police, but also said many offenders committed crime to feed their drug addiction, so it was important there were also adequate rehabilitation services.

A Victoria Police spokesperson said there had been unplanned leave at Rochester recently, but neighbouring police, Highway Patrol and night shift police vans continued to patrol the town.

But Mr Hawker was not sure a 24-hour police station in Rochester could be justified, given the level of crime: he said the town could experience a spate of break-ins in a short period of time, then not see anything for a while.

He also said police did a “great job” investigating, but believed there needed to be harsher penalties for those found committing such crimes.

Crime Statistics Agency figures show burglaries and thefts fell from 2017 to 2018, but incidents of property damage rose.