Safety summit positive “step forward” in addressing community concerns
A safety summit has been staged bringing together the City of Melbourne, Victoria Police, residents’ groups including those that represent Southbank, and stakeholders, to address various issues facing the city.
More than 50 people attended the August 19 summit at Town Hall, including members of resident associations, where issues of safety infrastructure, safety at night, community policing, and the Connect Respect program were among the topics discussed.
The Connect Respect program, which is delivered by the Council to Homeless Persons and the City of Melbourne, helps businesses build their understanding of and support their response to homelessness in the city.
Victoria Police and members of City of Melbourne City Safety team gave presentations.
“Community safety is a priority for us at the City of Melbourne,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said, adding the summit aimed to “facilitate safer neighbourhoods for everyone and agree on actions to be taken”.
“We heard from Victoria Police and our own City Safety team, as well as broader questions and feedback from our presidents of residents’ community groups,” she said.
“We’re looking forward to continuing these discussions and working together towards agreed outcomes.”
The Lord Mayor said the council would investigate increasing lighting outside commercial buildings, as well as making it easier for building owners to install external CCTV cameras.
Cr Capp said the council would also find ways of better communicating safety programs it had in place.
Southbank Residents’ Association president Tony Penna said the meeting was “very productive” and allowed people the opportunity “to see the faces of the policing community”.
However, while he welcomed the engagement with police and the council, he noted some of the topics discussed were issues that may not affect everyone.
“All the different precincts have got their own issues and things that happen in their own environment,” he said.
“Between the CBD and the other areas, it’s chalk and cheese, they’re so different.”
“A good example might be hooning; you don’t get hoons in the CBD and Southbank, because the streets are not conducive to hooning.”
Mr Penna said he was also a little surprised to see the issue of people experiencing homelessness raised as a safety matter as not all rough sleepers are “part of the safety problem”.
However, he understood it was “purely a perception thing” and that people “too often put them [rough sleepers] in the same category” as people engaging in drug use and anti-social behaviour.
From Southbank’s perspective, Mr Penna said he was “pretty happy” with community engagement around safety with the Southbank Safety and Security Committee meeting every quarter to keep on top of issues.
The Southbank 3006 residents’ group communications lead Mary Kay Rauma said the summit was a “good step forward” in listening to community concerns and was pleased to see homelessness addressed compassionately.
“I do think that connecting communities tend to look out for one another – it also helps provide an overall sense of understanding and ultimately safety,” she said.
Ms Rauma said while police did a great job, she hoped initiatives like the Neighbourhood Policing model and the 24-hour Victoria Police assistance line (131 444) could be better promoted to help tackle community concerns.
“It would be really great if they could widely publicise these ways the community can communicate with the police and work in partnership to share information,” she said.
“In having that dialogue and being approachable they will get so much out of their policing.”
Sergeant Dinah Tremain of East Melbourne Police Station, who coordinates the Neighbourhood Policing model across the Melbourne police service area including Southbank, also attended the summit with three colleagues.
She said it was a highly productive meeting and appreciated the opportunity to hear from the community and help build relationships. •