What was surprising about the robbery at the 7-Eleven was that the teenagers weren’t violent or even very aggressive, but the store owner couldn’t do anything because there was just too many of them. It’s an important issue, because intimidation plays a major role in these crimes.
This kind of thing has been happening here for the last two or three years, but it’s always been isolated incidents and smaller groups of kids – not 20 or 30 kids at a time like we’re seeing now. These kids probably wouldn’t do it if they had to do it alone, but the size of the group intimidates the store owners so they’re scared of intervening. The group provides these teenagers (with) a sense of protection.
It seems as though these incidents are fairly organised. For example, there can be 15 kids walking separately down a street, and suddenly they converge at a certain point, like a store. They all have mobile phones and they use them to communicate. It’s mass robbery.
Several of our store owners are also hesitant to call the police because they know the story will wind up in the news, and they’re afraid they’ll lose customers because people will think their business is no longer safe. I’ve spoken with one member of our chamber who was the victim of a similar robbery, and he became very angry with me when I encouraged him to contact the police. But he’s right. I wouldn’t go back to a business that had been robbed by a gang of teenagers – so I can understand why others wouldn’t either.
Another fear I hear from members of our chamber is that if they call the police, these gangs of kids will retaliate by coming back later to smash the windows or vandelise their property.
The other concern is safety. Even though the most recent robberies were without incident, it could degenerate into a violent situation very quickly. Suppose the store owner has a gun. Or suppose he grabs a young person, and one of his friends goes to help him. Suddenly you’ve got a melee on your hands.
I think we’ll see a lot more of this when the holiday season comes. The gap between the society’s ‘haves’ and ‘don’t haves’ has been growing these last few years, and of course that’s contributing to the whole thing”.