Gateway Village precinct 'needs more security'

A CAFE owner at Gateway Village wants the Wodonga Council to step up security measures around the popular arts precinct.

Wassim Saliba returned to work at La Maison Cafe yesterday after it was closed for four days over Christmas, only to find someone had attempted to break in through the back door.

Thankfully, the shatter-proof glass didn’t fully break and the burglar was unable to get inside.

But Mr Saliba hasn’t always been so lucky; the cafe has been targeted a whopping 22 times in the 6½ years he has owned it.

“I got in yesterday and thought, ‘Merry Christmas’ — we had a great break and had to come in to this,” he said.

“We found bricks lying around so whoever it was knew what they were doing, they were ready to go.”

This week’s damage bill is more than $700, but in the past it has been much higher.

“We’ve had stuff stolen, the place has been trashed many times,” Mr Saliba said.

While he has increased his security over the years, including the installation of alarms and CCTV cameras, he now feels there’s little else he can do as a business owner.

Mr Saliba said he thought it was up to the council to help make the entire Gateway Village safer, particularly with the installation of better lighting.

“Anything can happen here, people are passing through because it’s a bridge between Albury and Wodonga,” he said. “There’s very poor lighting and it’s easy to hide.”

Mr Saliba said he had raised his concerns with the council a number of times but had got nowhere.

He acknowledged his business was different to most of the others in the precinct, including HotHouse Theatre and GIGS Gallery.

Wodonga’s economic development manager Matt Taylor said the council had this year completed $85,000 worth of improved lighting works in and around the village, including at the front of the restaurant.

“Since undertaking these projects, as well as tenants undertaking their own reviews, there has been a significant reduction in vandalism,” Mr Taylor said.

Anyone with any information should phone Wodonga police on (02) 6024 2600.

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