Retailer: ‘One came down in a nappy yesterday’
A GOLD Coast shopping plaza's retailers are so fed up with "undesirables" hassling patrons for money and using its car park as a toilet it is hoping to hire full-time security.
Ashmore Plaza Shopping Centre retailers say the daily problem is putting customers off going and the undesirables often get abusive when asked to move on.
Hair Design's Simone Schofield said: "We had one came down in a nappy yesterday and another verbally abused one of my staff members and threatened us with violence.
"They're tapping on people's car windows when they are in the car parks and asking for money, using bad language and make shoppers feel uncomfortable. Many old people are frightened."
Ms Schofield, at the centre for nearly 30 years, believed the problems came from nearby Cotlew Manor, accommodation for people with intellectual, mental and physical difficulties.
"The residents should be supervised when out of that place. We've called the police on several occasions. It's upsetting for us - on social media people are talking about it and how they will no longer come - it's just embarrassing.
"It's a daily problem and we just want Ashmore cleaned up."
Mamma Mia's pizza shop owners Andrew and Miranda Beardshall said customers were regularly hassled by "people with schizophrenia and other mental issues" who at times became violent.
"We feel sad and sorry for them but it affects us and our customers. It seems to be getting worse," she said.
"Often the car park is used as a toilet and apparently one woman has been offering her services out the back, we think to buy alcohol. I feel for the older people who come here, and because there's quite a few schools close."
The centre's eastern end spokesman said it was in talks with the body corporate committee to get full-time security quotes.
"We've approached police for guidance, but everyone knows the entire Cotlew Street area in Ashmore is a problem, similar to what Southport is like. Maybe if the facility where these people live had a bit more control it would help," they said.
"There are night patrols. It's hoped we can split the costs of hiring security during the day. But there's a bigger problem. If we move them on from here they will just go to another shopping centre."
A Queensland Police spokesman said officers were called to the area three times in five weeks with no arrests.
"Part of our role is to work with business owners to help them become more aware of the types of crime that may pose a risk to their business, and help develop strategies to reduce that.
"Police rely on information from the community to help us keep our neighbourhoods safe."
COTLEW MANOR'S RESPONSE
Cotlew Manor's owner Lee Tsiboukas says the accommodation service for those with mental and intellectual disabilities was "not a prison and nor should it be".
The facility has been in his family for 30 years and it was not the first time nearby Ashmore Plaza Shopping Centre retailers had complained about residents at the shops.
"This is a policing issue but unfortunately police have bigger problems. It's not just our residents. There's a housing commission place beside us and other facilities," he said.
"What the community has to realise is they can't have it both ways. Society does not want to lock people up anymore so that means they will be part of our communities.
"We make sure they have clean accommodation, healthy meals, and take their medicine but we have no legal rights to make them stay These people have human rights."
Mr Tsiboukas said many of his residents didn't have the help required. Some might have NDIS funding for a support worker for three hours a day but after they've watched "a bit of telly, they want to go for a walk".
"We give them everything they need but we don't allow alcohol so unfortunately these people, who often have $160 a fortnight in disposable income, will go to the shops to get it."
Mr Tsiboukas said when residents breached his rules he could issue notices but had no power outside the gates.
"I wish we could offer shop owners more but it would require legislative changes and 10-foot walls for us to stop people leaving. These people have the right to live as normal a life as possible."
Mr Tsiboukas said if police told residents they'd be banned for begging for money or asking people to buy booze "it would go a long way".
Originally published as Retailer: 'One came down in a nappy yesterday'