"Citizen's arrest" ends teenagers' crime wave
AS A wave of crime swept over Ooralea, a small community banded together online and managed to achieve what the police had been trying to do for more than a month.
Residents in the suburb had been reporting thefts and house break-ins for some time, with seemingly no end in sight. But it wasn't until one man decided to organise a stake-out and make a citizen's arrest that the community was able to sleep more safely.
Justin, who chose not to reveal his full name for fear of repercussion, said he had just come back from camping on Sunday, October 9, when the police knocked on his door.
"They told me the house across the road had been broken into," he said.
"At the time I didn't think much of it, but when I went on to the Ooralea Facebook group, I could see the issues had been going on for a month or so."
On Monday morning his own father had been targeted, with his hat and keys stolen from his parked car.
While looking around Justin noticed a council gate close by, which was open, and after closer inspection found a black bag which, along with other items, included his father's hat. It was at this point he decided to take action.
With a few of his friends on Monday afternoon, Justin saw four teenagers riding along the highway; he thought they could be the same people breaking into homes.
He and his friends began following the group, watching them lift up car handles, break into cars and run from backs of houses.
Justin and his friends switched vehicles several times throughout the night, trying not to give away their pursuit.
At one point, a friend of Justin's even sat close to them in a McDonald's, listening to their conversation as to where they had been and areas they would target next.
Finally, after three hours, Justin approached one of the oldest boys, grabbed him, held him to the ground and made a "citizen's arrest".
While the police arrived 10 minutes later to apprehend the boy, so did six other people who had been looking for the same teenagers that night.
"As I've grabbed him and got him on the ground, two other blokes showed up in a car who had been looking for them," Justin said.
"Then another lady and a guy who had been looking for them showed up. They came because he stole their keys from their car.
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"Then another bloke turned up with his wife because they'd just tried to break into his daughter's car."
Ooralea residents are relieved the threat is finally over, with one household saying the tension had become so intense they kept a hockey stick permanently stationed at their front door.
Started only a few months ago, the Ooralea Facebook group was created by Josh Geiger to bring the people in the area together. He said initially it was used mainly to find lost dogs, but since the crime wave, the community watch aspect has been the biggest benefit.
Justin said while he was happy to help the community, he wouldn't have been able to were it not for the online group that made him aware of the extent of the problem.
"The community group is an awesome idea and every neighbourhood should have one," he said.
"It's a great example of the positive things a community can do."