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Confusion over police presence

16 Sep 2013

By Sean Rogasch

Despite appearing to conclude in 2011, Southbank is no closer to having a police presence after the St Kilda Rd station closes.

In 2011, the City of Melbourne dumped plans for a “police pod” in Queensbridge Square believing there was no longer a need because the St Kilda Rd station would be relocated elsewhere in Southbank by 2015 and a mobile service for peak times would pick up the slack.

It now appears any promise of a police station has been revoked by both the State Government and Victoria Police and both are happy to continue with the current arrangement, using a mobile police facility during peak times along Southbank Promenade.

Even the mobile service has come under scrutiny, with some believing it is not used often enough.

A State Government spokesperson would not be drawn on the question of future policing options in Southbank, suggesting it was simply one of many sites that could be considered for further infrastructure.

“The operational need for new police stations in locations such as Southbank is, in the first instance, progressed through the Victoria Police Strategic Facilities Plan, where such projects are considered in the context of other police priorities across the state,” the spokesperson said.

Despite this unwillingness to speak frankly, Southbank Local News understands Victoria Police believes the Government sees Melbourne East or Melbourne West police stations as being close enough to cover Southbank, after the St Kilda Rd facility is closed.

The procrastination has left the council and local stakeholders reeling.

Councillor Ken Ong said he didn’t believe Melbourne East or Melbourne West could accommodate the influx of police vacating St Kilda Rd.

“I’ve discussed this issue with Lord Mayor Robert Doyle and we are writing a letter to Police Minister Kim Wells,” Cr Ong explained.

“We believe the Southbank location should be a priority,” he added.

Cr Ong also raised concerns that the stop-gap mobile facility was not being used as often as it should be.

The Yarra River Business Association’s (YRBA) Tim Bracher agrees.

“The foot patrols on Friday and Saturday night have been extremely well received by business and residents, but the mobile police unit is becoming a rarer sight in the precinct,” Mr Bracher said.

Both the YRBA and Southbank Resident Group (SRG) clearly want the Government’s response to be more urgent and are behind a push for a stronger police presence in Southbank.

SRG’s Michael Smolders said residents will continue to call for a stronger police presence in the area.

“With a rapidly growing population this side of the Yarra, we must be better served by a local police presence. If the Government fails to secure land for a site now, there will be no hope of securing a site once all has been sold to private interests,” Mr Smolders said.

Mr Bracher agrees the presence needs to be increased and urged the council to take up the issue.

“The latest hesitancy from government will, hopefully, make the council realise that it needs to revisit the need, reinstate the funding that it withdrew two years ago and pressure Spring Street for a collaborative approach to the situation,” Mr Bracher said.

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