Shoppers fear city black spots

GANGS and drunks have made Flinders St station and Swanston St the most feared city spots for workers, shoppers and students.

And seven in 10 CBD visitors say they don't feel safe hitting the town on Saturday and Sunday nights, a City of Melbourne report reveals.
Researchers interviewed more than 1400 people for the Perceptions of Safety report, obtained by the Herald Sun using Freedom of Information laws.

The report showed concern about drug use and dealing had decreased dramatically, and nine in 10 people now felt safe more often than unsafe.

But CBD traders reported an increase in gang activity, especially around Russell St and Flinders St station.

Beggars and drunks were the biggest problems reported in the Swanston St area, the report says.

Almost two-thirds of retailers said they had not seen any recent improvements in scary areas.

Most traders had witnessed unsafe behaviour in the CBD, and 37 per cent had experienced it.

The growing population of city dwellers was most worried about an increase in the number of drunks on the streets.

Most traders, residents and visitors said more police patrolling the city would make them feel less threatened.

Public toilets were no-go zones for half of the female visitors quizzed, and despite the popularity of laneway bars, about six in 10 women felt scared wandering down dark alleys.

"The fact that Flinders St station and Swanston St are among the most unsafe areas could reflect that many respondents were commuting by train and had more exposure to this area,"the report says.

A fifth of people interviewed said they had taken no measures to improve their safety.

The report was prepared by consultants Newton Wayman Chong based on interviews of CBD residents, traders and visitors in May 2003.

Lord mayor John So said the city was viewed as a safer place than two years ago.

"It is encouraging to note that there has been a big improvement in the perceptions of safety around two areas of concern in the city, Russell St and King St,"he said.

"The council will continue to improve perceptions of safety by working with Victoria Police, licensees, residents and traders."

The council would also continue to upgrade lighting and continue using security cameras.

Fiona Hudson
city editor
24jan04
Herald Sun


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