Spate of Lilydale vandalism sparks community concern

A donation bin fire at Lilydale Marketplace triggered a community response to local vandalism. Picture: RON HAINES LILYDALE CFA.

By Mikayla van Loon

Lilydale has been experiencing a spate of vandalism recently, with a group of bored and antisocial youth noted as the main offenders.

While incidents of graffiti and bus stops being smashed have occurred, a donation bin fire at the Lilydale Marketplace on Saturday 30 July sparked concern among many of the town’s groups and organisations.

Lilydale Township Action Group (LTAG) president Neal Taylor said there certainly had been a rise in frequency of events like this happening in Lilydale.

“We believe it’s something that’s happening more frequently now. We’ve had a couple of our committee members catch younger people doing vandalism and also graffiti,” he said.

“So it appears that there is a group of youths that seems to be causing a lot of problems.”

Mr Taylor said the committee is quite concerned that this group of young people don’t have anything better to do other than cause havoc.

Station commander of Lilydale police, Mel Woods said this concern led to a community forum meeting earlier in the week to discuss the response moving forward.

“Myself and our Proactive Unit (Youth Specialists) met with key stakeholders this week including the Council, Lilydale Youth Hub, Marketplace and a local school and going forward will work together to try and engage the youths and redirect their focus,” she said.

“The community can expect to see an increase in police at the Marketplace, Chirnside Park Shopping Centre and surrounds and we would encourage the community to come and chat to the members.”

Senior Sgt Woods said during the winter months, when teenagers are bored and aiming to keep warm, they tend to offend inside, making the police response different to summer.

However, coming into the warmer months, Senior Sgt Woods said Lilydale police members will be undertaking bike courses to keep a presence on bike trails, foot patrols will be occurring more regularly and police will also be on trains.

“Police presence has proven to deter people from places and while we don’t want to pass the problem on, it does discourage people from offending in that location,” she said.

Seeing more police involvement and their active presence is something Mr Taylor said he would like to see as part of the response.

Although Lilydale does have a number of security cameras placed along Main Street, Mr Taylor said perhaps advocacy for more cameras in different locations would help deter these youth as well.

“There needs to be some cameras in the ‘behind the scenes’ areas like the football club, it needs to have one there. Stuff like that needs to be taken into account as well.

“It is very frustrating, particularly around the bus shelters and it seemed like it was a late night thing where they’ve come along and smashed it thinking it was fun. It’s incredibly annoying that people can’t respect those sorts of things.”

Unsure what the answer is knowing that these young people aren’t going to come forward for help or assistance themselves, Mr Taylor said it’s a question of what to do next.

“I’m not saying we need to punish them but how can we turn their behaviour into positive behaviour?

“We’ve all been through Covid. We’ve all been locked in our homes and all know how frustrating it is but by going out and causing vandalism, I just don’t see how that is helping anyone else. 10 minutes of fun is going to cause a lot more problems for others.”

Yarra Ranges CIU confirmed the criminal damages of the donation bins have been linked to a group of youth who are being investigated but no interviews have been conducted yet, with evidence collection still occurring.