Sky Falls In Over Tamworth Amid Black Criminal ‘Grubs’ And ‘Keyboard Warriors’

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Tamworth may be the self-proclaimed country music capital of the nation, but it’s also a town “under siege” from criminal gangs and roaming Aboriginal youth. If you believe some of the locals… and news.com.au.

For those not in the know, Tamworth is situated in the New England region of northern NSW. By country town standards it’s quite large – population 41,000 – and it’s home to the annual Tamworth Country Music Festival, the largest of its kind in the country.

Like many towns, Tamworth also has a quite impressive history of racism, and not just towards Aboriginal people. In 2005 and 2006, the city made national headlines after the local council voted to refuse a request to house five Sudanese refugee families, because it felt they wouldn’t fit in.

The furore included this timeless quote from then Mayor James Treloar: “The community has expressed enormous concerns of mistrust against the Sudanese people, I think this is largely based on previous events like the Cronulla riots.”

Fast forward a decade and a bit, and Tamworth is still struggling with issues of race, although the country town, like most in Australia, has settled back into the business of focussing mostly on Aboriginal people. Particularly kids.

The source of the latest community angst – and the news.com.au story headlined ‘Tamworth Crime: Rural Aussie Community Under Siege’ – appears, in part, to be a recent post on the Oxley Police District Facebook page, in which Chief Inspector Jeff Budd (the officer in charge at Tamworth) describes youth criminals as “grubs” and Facebook users who criticise police for not doing enough as “keyboard warriors” whose behaviour is “BS!”.

It’s possible Chief Inspector Budd didn’t get the memo from police headquarters about professional communication. In any event, it proved popular with locals, who hailed the Chief as not falling prey to the “PC crap” that so many other officials spout.

Chief Inspector Budd also, possibly, didn’t get the memo about political comment, because after one user writes, “If they can’t control their children who are repeat offenders can the parents not be liable? If not can this be made legislation?” The Oxley Police District page responds, “Gday Nic, No arguments from me we need leadership from our Governments.”

Should I notify the Police Minister about his lack of leadership Chief Inspector Budd, or will you?

Either way, Chief Inspector Budd does report that there has, indeed, been a recent spike in juvenile related crime in the Tamworth region, although he doesn’t assign it to one race. The community can do that all by themselves.

“G’day People of Tamworth, currently we are battling with an increase of Juvenile linked crime in some parts of Tamworth,” Chief Inspector Budd writes. “We have made over 15 Juvenile arrests since just before Xmas. The offenders are linked to multiple offences and are in many cases repeat offenders. They have all been before the courts.”

So that’s pretty definitive. There’s been a sudden recent spate of youth-based crime, and just over a dozen kids have been arrested and put before the courts.

That probably should have been the end of it, but then, that’s not much of a story. And it’s certainly not going to placate some residents of Tamworth, convinced that their community, as news.com.au reported, is “under siege”.

Introducing the Tamworth Crime Watch Facebook page, the other source for the news.com.au article, and a page run by ‘concerned locals’ who report: “It’s time to take a stand. Crime has gotten out of hand. Lets (sic) band together and put a stop to it. Lets (sic) Take Tamworth Back.”

Back from whom is not clear, but regardless, 4,800 people ‘like’ the Tamworth Crime Watch page, and it’s not hard to see why if rampant hypocrisy and ‘Chicken Little Sky Is Falling In’ hysteria is your thing.

The first post on the TCW page reads: “After some consultation between admins we have decided to let members post information directly to the page. But be warned…. ANY VIOLENT, ABUSIVE, DEGRADING OR RACIAL COMMENTS WILL BE DELETED AND THE MEMBER BLOCKED FROM THE PAGE.”

The very next post, from the admins, advocates violence.

Then a reposting from another page which includes a picture of a woman, who is overweight, and accused of skipping out of a business without paying. The post specifically states, “Although this is totally dishonest and unacceptable we ask that you refrain from personally attacking this woman as her looks and body image have nothing to do with her behaviour.”

The first comment on the page mocks her weight… as do most of the rest of them.

And of course there’s the ‘racial comments’, which litter the page and go undeleted.

But my favourite post is this one, which – given it has absolutely nothing to do with crime, let alone crime in Tamworth – suggests that maybe there’s a political ideology motivating the admins of the Tamworth Crime Watch page.

In the comments, Hanson-Young is variously described as “dumb as dog shit” and a “Brain dead flog of a thing”.

In any event, it’s mostly just a mob justice page, with all the requisite outrage and bad grammar. What really matters is what crime is really like in Tamworth. Is it on the rise? Have things “gotten out of hand”?

Helpfully, there’s an excellent agency in NSW called the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. BOCSAR has been doing quiet, uncontroversial work for several decades, and is the authority on actual crime data in NSW.

The available data doesn’t cover the period over Christmas, which is Chief Inspector Budd’s concern, but it does look back over the past five years.

Long story short, the Tamworth sky is unlikely to fall in any time soon. Indeed, the region has been in the grip of a period of comparative peace for quite some time.

Break and enters (into homes) are listed as “stable” by BOCSAR for both the last two years, and the preceding five. Break and enters (into businesses) are listed as “stable” for the past five years, and down 21.8 per cent for the last two years. Motor vehicle theft is down 30 per cent in the last two years, and stable over five years.

The only offence category that locals are screaming about that has seen a rise is ‘steal from motor vehicles’, and that’s up 8.2 per cent over the last five years, but stable over the last two.

With few exceptions, virtually every other category of crime is down or stable.

One other area of statistical interest is over at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which surveyed the ethnic mix of the population for the 2016 census.

It notes that the five top ethnicities for the Tamworth region are, in order, Australian, English, Irish, Scottish and German.

Sudanese, notably, don’t rank in the publicly available census data.

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Chris Graham

Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. Chris has won a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards for his reporting. He lives in Brisbane and splits his time between Stradbroke Island, where New Matilda is based, and the mainland.

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