By Justin Randell
WOLLONGONG — Over the last month, Resistance has noticed an increase in the number of young people being asked to "move along" in the Crown Street Mall by uniformed and undercover police.
Last week, the mall security guard was given "special constable status" by the Wollongong Council, enabling him to make arrests and control on-street activities in the central business district. "We want to get the cowboys out of here," said councillor Alex Darling.
The council has also approved a six-month trial of new "no-loitering" laws in Port Kembla. This will involve the posting of no-loitering signs in the region, and empowering police to move young people on from public spaces.
Some councillors are calling for the trial to be extended to surrounding suburbs, as well as the Wollongong mall.
The Illawarra Mercury (better known locally as the "Mockery") has done its bit to justify the council's moves, running a crime series called "Reclaim the Streets".
Headlines from recent articles in the series include "Senseless vandalism by pint sized punks", "Vandals pool their stupidity", "MP calls for more police in region", "Vandals smashing records" and an unforgettable front page banner headline: "Child Hoods: 8 years old and they're on the loose".
"These new laws and police powers for security guards will mean a further increase in the harassment of young people in the Illawarra," said Resistance member Rowan Young, who was asked to move along while sitting on the grass talking to her friends.
"The media are beating up the crime problem to justify further harassment of young people and make the mall a shopping-only zone — just in time for the Christmas rush. According to the council, if you're not about to spend money, you aren't welcome."