By Jonty Ralphsmith
Violent crime in broad daylight has workers on the main street of Dandenong terrified.
Employees at Hall and Partners First National Real Estate had their fears heightened when they saw colleague Michael Hall knocked unconscious for 30 minutes on March 2.
He does not remember anything after being pushed onto the tiled floor by the assailant, but CCTV footage reveals the assailant pushed him, causing Mr Hall’s head to hit the tiled floor, before spitting on Mr Hall and walking out.
Mr Hall also suffered a collapsed lung and was hospitalised for five days with the dispute arising because a nearby tenant was well behind in his rent.
“The magistrate said it is the worst thing he has ever seen happen in an office environment – it was really bad, I could have quite easily died,” Mr Hall said.
Since the attack, criminal activity has worsened around Lonsdale Street and Langhorne Streets according to businesses.
Multiple shopfronts had their windows smashed by an assailant on Friday 10 June with property damage – or worse – an increasing occurrence on Lonsdale and Langhorne Streets in recent months.
Hall and Partners First National Real Estate had just had a pane of glass replaced earlier in the same day after smashing.
When employees heard the smashing of glass on at about 12.30pm, they assumed that the new window had not been installed properly, causing an innocuous shattering.
They could not believe another attack would occur so soon.
They were not the only shopfronts hit that day – Good Money next door had a rock thrown through the window, with the those that saw the strike saying the assailant then came in to collect the rock before walking out.
Employees at one of the affected businesses say they got CCTV footage but the unknown male is yet to be identified.
Two empty shopfronts also had smashed windows and on Langhorne Street, and Biggin and Scott’s luck of remaining unscathed ran out as they were also affected.
In a separate incident, an employee’s car windows were smashed in broad daylight.
“We’ve got 40 staff all scared to go to their car, they’ll only go in groups,” Mr Hall from First National said.
“We’re locked in – the only way people can come in is through an intercom.
“The doors are locked all the time, people are scared.”
One worker even said they ran to their car once after a long day, keys between their sweaty fingers ready to defend themselves, petrified the darkness was providing cover for someone following them and waiting to pounce.
Groups of people congregate at Boyd Lane, the back carpark of First National and have tried to get into the garage, damaging the roller door and littering the area. Despite having four carspaces there, the company has put temporary fencing in front of the garage to preserve safety and instead pay for parking.
Security cameras were promised for the area last August so it could again be used without people feeling the need to rush in and out and lock their doors quickly – they have still not been installed.
All businesses and shopfronts affected spoken to by Star Journal were within about 250 metres of each other. Each had either directly been affected, changed their behaviour, or knew of several people who had.
First National has spent $20,000 as a direct result of the issue and expects to spend close to, if not more than $40,000.
Now, the real estate keeps its shutters down even throughout the day to prevent another smashing preventing promotional opportunity, and an intercom has been installed to add another layer of protection.
Another business that would prefer to remain anonymous does not pay for insurance; given previous incidents, it is cheaper to just pay for the replacements as incidents occur.
Beyond the attacks on shopfronts there have also been several other incidents, prompting discussion in the area about paying for a security guard.
Bakery Kiki Steak and Cheese Pie had its window smashed with a drainage grate in a separate incident on Saturday 28 May, with police arresting a 28-year-old man at the scene charging him with seven counts of criminal damage.
The bakery has had drinks stolen on several other occasions and workers are too scared to ask the customers to pay given their behaviour.