Up to six cars were attacked with a screwdriver and a couch thrown off one of the balconies at Westfield Belconnen last week in a spate of vandalism that is far from the first for the northside shopping centre.
Graeme Lambert was among the shoppers to return to his car to find the letters ‘TICA’, followed by other deep scratches, engraved into the paintwork.
“We were parked not far from the entrance that’s closest to Coles,” he says.
When he reported the damage done to his blue Honda, Westfield Belconnen management confirmed he was the sixth victim that day. Another shared the result to the Canberra Notice Board Group on Facebook, a dark grey Mercedes SUV this time, etched with a similar tag. The owner said it must have happened between 3:05 and 4:40 pm on 22 May.
“I had the exact same thing happen to my car today,” one comment read.
“Day before yesterday, couple of cars had eggs thrown at windshield,” another said.
This isn’t the first episode either. ACT Policing has received 12 reports of property damage at the Belconnen mall in 2022 and five as of 31 May this year. Others on the Canberra Notice Board Group talked of cars being “keyed front to back” and covered in paint or eggs over the past few months and even years.
“We avoid Belconnen now or park somewhere with cameras (if any),” one read.
Others claimed to have had “the exact same thing happen to my car in the same carpark a few years ago”.
“Unfortunately I had to wear the very expensive cost to have it fixed.”
A lot of frustration is targeted at the management of Westfield Belconnen over a lack of camera surveillance in the car park.
“No one has ever been caught doing it, and no one has ever witnessed it,” Graeme says.
Management took his details and told him they would review the CCTV footage and “support police in their investigation”. Unfortunately, ACT Policing wasn’t confident of apprehending any suspect either.
“My conversation with the police is that there’s no substantial evidence to pin it on anyone in particular. So we get, ‘sorry about that, case closed. If anything comes up, we’ll let you know’.”
Graeme was told Westfield Belconnen has had a “a few issues with youths recently”.
“One of their centre couches was thrown off the third storey the other day,” he says.
“They mentioned a lot of frustration around trying to keep the place free of antisocial behaviour. It’s a double-edged sword, because it’s a good place for the community to meet but also invites some negative community behaviour with it.”
Graeme says he was told by management they’d made it mandatory for staff to conduct four walk-throughs of the car park every day. They’re also holding regional meetings now to discuss installing more CCTV cameras in the car parks.
For now, Graeme feels most for the young workers whose cars were damaged.
“Mine is covered by comprehensive insurance, but many of these low-income workers may not be able afford that. And many are probably under 25 years old and will be paying a extra excess on top of the standard one.”
ACT Policing says victims of deliberate vehicle damage can call 131 444 or attend a police station to make a report. Staff may ask you about your vehicle’s registration and value, as well as how and where the damage occurred, where you were at the time, and the time and date, so have this information handy. Victims should also report the damage to their insurance companies, where applicable.
Westfield Belconnen was contacted for comment.