Caution at Moree: Rock throwing return

By: Cobey Bartels

Back in January we covered a serious rock throwing incident that took place in October 2016, leaving one truck driver with a serious head injury and damage to his Mack from three separate rocks thrown.

Today we were made aware of two rock throwing incidents that took place across the last month, through Moree along the Newell Highway.

Road transport safety advocate and veteran driver Rod Hannifey was approached two weeks ago by a driver who informed him of a rock that was thrown through his passenger window.

"He asked if I was Rod Hannifey and went on to tell me he had his passenger window smashed at Moree and he had glass all through his bunk," Hannifey said.

"He told me it’s been going on for a long time and he told me he had informed police."

Hannifey then told Owner//Driver he had a similar encounter with a driver just one week earlier.

"I was going through Moree the week before and a truck going northbound said he was hit, by two kids standing in the middle of the road," he said.

"I asked him if he’d called the police and he said he’s going to find a place to pull up and call them."

The incident in January sparked increased efforts from Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the Moree Shire Council prompting increased patrols, commitments to additional CCTV and lighting, and education at schools and the local Rugby League club.

A database was setup by the Council to log every complaint, allowing better enforcing and plotting of incidents over time, but this relies on truck drivers reporting the rock throwing.

"This has been going on for a long time and people don’t even bother reporting it because it’s so common," Hannifey explained.

"Make sure you report it immediately because people have been killed and it could happen again, we don’t deserve that as truck drivers.

"Even at Moree, if you smash your windscreen and cross the road nothing will stop the truck"

Director of Planning and Community Development at the Moree Shire Council Angus Witherby told Owner//Driver they are aware of the rock throwing and are continuing to pursue solutions to the issue.

"We are still proceeding with the CCTV and lighting and the total budget now is around $200,000," Witherby said.

"We haven’t actually got new CCTV and lighting installed yet but we’ve been doing the background work like the cabling and fibre optics hook-ups.

"We are hoping to get it fully implemented in time for our next main harvest.

"In the meantime the police have been taking out additional patrols with some success."

A proactive initiative Witherby highlighted was a mobile neighbourhood watch program, which was established by the Aboriginal community in Moree, assisting in fighting the rock throwing problem.

"It is part of the neighbourhood program and is done in conjunction with the police force," he explained.

"It’s about providing eyes and ears around town.

"What that’s done is free up police resources to be able to do more targeted, focused policing based on information provided to them.

"It’s got about 80 people involved in it."

Witherby agrees that reporting the incidents need to be a high priority, to help police and council effectively target the issue.

"The reporting needs to be to the police, and we want to hear about it," he insisted.

"Police told us of three rock incidents in the last two months reported to them.

"It’s in every body’s interest to report these incidents to the police and we are also happy to take a call and chat about it in detail."

When the issue was at its worst, Witherby says they would receive multiple incidents reported each week.

The issue is one that won’t go away, and Hannifey says the lights and cameras are needed as soon as possible, as well as calling on council to trim shrubs in the area.

"First thing is to knock the shrubs down, so people can’t hide in them," he said.

"The fence they’re cutting every night, so we need more lights and cameras to catch them.

RMS has been contacted for comment and we will update this story once we hear back.

READERS, we want to hear from you – have you experience rock throwing?

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