Getting hard to see a future in Fremantle

FREMANTLE optometrist Abernethy Owens has been hit by a spate of break-ins and is reconsidering its future in the port city after 90 years.

Practice manager Mark Smith says his East End business has suffered four burglaries since May, the most recent on Monday, and it’s cost him $25,000 in damages and stolen products.

Mr Smith says the robberies have “soured” the firm’s 90th anniversary, while the crime spree is “really disappointing” for all East End businesses.

He says the thieves targeted branded non-prescription sunglasses, which retail for between $200 and $400, and suspects a crime syndicate is sending them east because the sunnies disappear without a trace and WA police have had little luck tracking them down.

• Abernethy Owens owner/manager Mark Smith says anti-social behaviour in Freo’s East-end is killing his business. 

• Abernethy Owens owner/manager Mark Smith says anti-social behaviour in Freo’s East-end is killing his business.

Crime syndicate

Abernethy Owens is located in the Adelaide Street Plaza, which was vacated by supermarket giant Woolworths earlier this year and a new anchor tenant is yet to be found.

The optometrists upped security and purchased CCTV cameras after the second break-in, but the burglaries continued with the perpetrators breaking through automatic doors, smashing the sunglasses cabinet with a pick-axe, and making their escape down a side-alley.

Police have charged a man over the third break-in after arresting him for using a stolen credit card and recognising him from the camera footage.

“That was some good police work and a good result from the CCTV we installed,” Mr Smith says.

But he wants Fremantle council to get a move-on with revitalisation projects in the area and says businesses can’t sustain the losses from crime.

They’re also asking shopping centre owner Sirona Capital to install better CCTV coverage and increase security patrols.

“It’s a disappointing culmination of 90 years in Fremantle,” Mr Smith says.

“As a business we’re committed to staying in Fremantle but you wonder how much more of this we can take before we leave our home town.”

“The East-End of town desperately needs revitalising, which will naturally drive away crime.”

by TRILOKESH CHANMUGAM

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