Calls grow for action on crime as precinct revival becomes “overshadowed by anti-social behaviours and violence”
Docklands residents and traders are demanding answers from the City of Melbourne and Victoria Police on crime as fears grow not enough is being done to keep the community safe.
The issue came to a head when a resident named Phil Kan stated his concerns in a submission during a City of Melbourne Future Melbourne Committee on May 17, which was held for the first time at The Hub at Docklands.
In his submission, read out by Cr Dr Olivia Ball in front of a public gallery, Mr Kan said he no longer felt safe at night in Docklands as he regularly encountered people “screaming and fighting”, which was causing “unnecessary stress” and a “disturbance” to residents.
Mr Kan said while he had welcomed an increase in visitors to the precinct that had been hit hard by the pandemic, he believed “all the efforts in reviving the Docklands area has been overshadowed by anti-social behaviour and violence.”
“Therefore, my question is: what is the plan the council has in addressing the deterioration of safety in Docklands, and the timeline to do something about it?” he said.
“As a loyal resident of Docklands, I do believe the foundation of prosperity is maintaining a safe neighbourhood instead of making it into a no-go zone,” his submission read, adding he had been “traumatised” after having witnessed the aftermath of a stabbing that had occurred within his apartment building (over the Moomba long weekend). The incident resulted in the death of a 26-year-old man visiting from interstate.
In response, Cr Dr Ball read out a prepared council statement, which said the council’s city safety and amenity team along with Victoria Police were working “closely together in relation to safety within the City of Melbourne, and we have shared your question with the local area commander for Melbourne West.”
“Victoria Police are actively patrolling the Docklands area and are engaged with local residents via the Docklands Security Committee (DSC). The incident on the Moomba long weekend was terrible and I am sorry you witnessed this.”
The DSC, of which the Docklands Representative Group (DRG) is a member, is convened by Victoria Police, and is a forum that shares information on initiatives and opportunities to improve security resilience across Docklands.
Mr Kan’s concerns come as recent crime events have seen the Pok Pok Thai restaurant in Docklands trashed after masked intruders broke their way in to steal cash from the Bourke St venue on May 27.
The devastated owner told Docklands News that safety needed to be prioritised, starting with CCTV cameras in streets.
“Just to think of these things is terrible. Running a small business has been hard enough over the past two years,” the shop’s owner Weina said.
In a separate incident, police charged six males after a 26-year-old man was grabbed at Southern Cross railway station before being taken to Batman Park where he was allegedly assaulted and robbed about 9.40pm on May 24.
The DRG, which told Docklands News earlier this year that the precinct was “fast becoming a no-go zone”, said residents were “increasingly removing themselves” from public spaces after dark, especially around the harbour.
“It’s often said, Docklands has different faces. During the day and at large public events, Docklands feels safe, but at night, especially from Thursday to Sunday, it’s a different story,” a DRG spokesperson said.
“While the DRG is aware of the importance of the night-time economy, everyone has the right to enjoy Docklands after dark. We are hopeful that the work being done under Project Night Justice (PRJ) will include a specific focus on Docklands to help improve night safety. Because if this stigma becomes embedded, it will take a long time for Docklands to recover its reputation.”
The PRJ is a partnership between the City of Melbourne, Victoria Police, Crime Stoppers Victoria, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia and the University of Melbourne, and has been made possible through funding received from the Victorian Government’s Building Safer Communities Program.
Long-time local business owner and community safety advocate Andrew Ward, who operates PUSH! Fitness on Collins St, said he felt the council’s response to Mr Kan’s question was “unacceptable”.
“Hearing that ‘police are actively patrolling in the area and working with the Docklands community’ falls horribly short of what our community needs,” he said.
“The safety again of our community and residents has been brushed off as unimportant. It’s completely unacceptable, and as a community we deserve so much more.”
Mr Ward said as an “urgent request” he would like to see a 24-hour police kiosk set-up in Docklands as well a “drastic increase in foot and vehicle patrols” – a sentiment also shared by other residents who would also like to see protective services officers deployed along the harbour on weekends.
“How many more people need to be threatened, assaulted and worse until something changes?” Mr Ward said.
Victoria Police runs Operation My City every Friday and Saturday night to prevent anti-social behaviour. •
Caption: The scene at Pok Pok Thai following the May 27 break in. Photo: Murray Enders.