On 29 May, 2007, Peter Iwaniuk, a nightclub and hotel owner of 30 years, wrote to the Melbourne City Council requesting “a much more effective and targeted strategy to improve the quality and safety of our late night precincts”.
A day after a triple shooting in Melbourne’s most infamous nightclub precinct, here are the main points of Iwaniuk’s letter (courtesy of Jon Faine’s ABC Melbourne morning radio program).
Both the State Government and Melbourne City Council need to recognise that society now functions on a 24/7 basis, and that the opportunity to socialize in a safe environment is critical to the social development of our young people.
It also needs to acknowledge that Melbourne and its suburban and regional centres have some of the world’s most vibrant and diverse nightlife and that our late night precincts are very safe statistically when one considers the many thousands of people who patronize them every week.
Given these problems, we still have some fundamental problems in managing our entertainment precincts that need urgent Government and Council attention. The facts are:
- Victoria Police does not (and never has had) the resources to have highly visible patrols in the streets late at night nor has it ever seen this as a strategic priority…
- There will always be a minority of people who engage in anti-social behaviour, opportunistic crime, vandalism, and deliberate acts of violence…
Victoria’s licensed premises, on the whole, are very well managed and people are generally very safe when inside licensed venues; however, the same cannot be said of the external environment. The external environment is not secure and does not have:
- Visible police patrols – police by and large only respond when as incident is reported and quite often the response time is inadequate to prevent serious assaults and/or apprehension of offenders…
- Adequate infrastructure in the way of public toilets , public transport, sobering up centres, and locally identified problems such as poor lighting.
We urgently need State Government and Council action in the following areas:
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Improved security in entertainment precincts
We need State Government and Council to provide a funding and legal framework to enable teams of private security to operate in all major entertainment precincts on the busy nights…I would be prepared to pay a levee on late night entertainment venues and I am sure that many of my colleagues would be prepared to do likewise, providing it was fairly based and part of a wider comprehensive government and council strategy to improve safety and enmity.
Improved infrastructure in entertainment precincts
The Government and Council need to act to:
- Establish and resource adequate numbers of sobering up centres within easy access of Melbourne’s entertainment precincts;
- Conduct ‘safety audits’ in Melbourne’s entertainment precincts at least annually and set side adequate funds or introduce new policies/practises to rectify deficiencies…
Effective strategies to minimise alcohol and drug abuse, and the development of anti social behaviours by young persons before these become entrenched adult behaviours.
The current strategy of the Government and Victoria Police is clearly directed at targeting the licensee, whereas I believe the emphasis I believe needs to be placed on making entertainment precincts accountable for their actions, making entertainment precincts safer through improved “infrastructure” and putting more government resources in “upstream” initiatives to address the cultural factors which are producing too many problem individuals in society.