By ERWIN CHLANDA
There is a paramilitary group in Alice Springs ready to shoot offenders in the knees or smash their legs with baseball bats.
They are selected by a council, swear an oath of allegiance and receive training.
Is it weapons training, we asked its spokesman Gary Hall.
“I don’t think there will be a lot of weapons training involved, to be honest,” he said.
“It doesn’t take a massive lot of training to shoot someone in the back of the legs. What is does take is balls.”
The group is called the Alice Springs Volunteer Force which was formed last year and announced publicly last month.
Mr Hall, who arrived in town from Northern Ireland six years ago, will not disclose the number of members nor their identity except to say “it’s growing by the day”.
He says the organisation is a response to inaction and ineffectiveness by the government and the police in dealing with escalating crime.
Violence in Alice Springs is rampant. One of the places he claims it can be seen is around the Caltex service station on North Stuart Highway.
He says: “Three or four cars arrive with large men in them [these are his ‘offenders’, not his ‘volunteers’], they will batter whomever’s there, get back in their cars and drive away.
“There are weapons inside these cars. Weapons have been used and are being used all around here.
“We have a Minister of Police. We pay him a large salary to ensure our safety is met – not just reacting to crime but preventative measures also. It’s missing. It’s not good enough.”
Mr Hall sees nothing wrong with what he proposes: “The responsibility for the safety of this town is the responsibility of every man and woman in this town.
“We shouldn’t rely just on the government, just on the police. We have a duty of care to each other, and to our properties.
“All too often people are only too happy to sit on their big, fat behinds and do absolutely nothing but whinge and complain.
He says the recent spate of rock throwing was the final trigger for the group to get into gear.
He was there on his own at Billygoat Hill, as a leading figure of the Concerned Citizens Council, but was soon joined by more than a dozen others – no-one was armed.
The paramilitary group is a separate organisation, Mr Hall says, and will have an impact on the crime rate when their measures become known.
Says Mr Hall: “Word goes around, Mr such and so is in the hospital, he had a bullet though the back of his leg.
“Oh, why is that?
“Well, you know, he keeps robbing people’s houses, he’s always stealing cars. He goes to jail for a couple of months and he’s out again and steals cars, you know, that fellow?
“And now he’s walking around on crutches because his knee’s been blown off, or he was taken to an alleyway and had his legs smashed with baseball bats.
“Do you think he wants to steal another car? Do you think that will make the other men in his neighbourhood think twice about stealing cars? I guarantee you, yes it does.”
Is he not complicit in the intended criminal actions of the group?
Says Mr Hall: “The Minister for Police speaks for the police. But he still not a police officer.”
Are you in touch with the members of the group?
So you know who they are?
“Of course I do.”
Have the police asked who they are?
Do you find that amazing?
“I don’t think police investigate possible future crimes. There have been no shootings of kneecaps. If anyone is shot in Alice Springs by a paramilitary belonging to the Alice Springs Volunteer Force they will proudly notify the media, they will proudly claim that operation.”
Mr Hall gives as an example the man who walked into a Subway shop and threatened a girl with a knife, and has since been arrested: “He is on our radar.”
Mr Hall says the group’s message is “this is not happening in Alice Springs any more. That’s the message we’re putting out to those men and women who think it’s a good idea [to commit crimes].
“Alice Springs is no longer an easy target.
“It is not a soft touch, because there are men and women prepared to deal with you in a manner we deem necessary.
“Do not rob in this town. It’s not going to happen any more. Alice Springs is no longer for the taking. It’s a beautiful town we celebrate in so many ways. I’m a musician and I love it here.”
By ERWIN CHLANDA