Recently-appointed Surry Hills Police Local Area commander Superintendent Tony Crandell told the Star Observer that one of his biggest priorities was “establishing a very good and strong connection with the gay community” in his first interview with LGBTI media since taking the job.

Six months into the role and running a team of 210 officers in what he described as an extremely difficult inner-city command, Crandell said he was confident that, overall, levels of violence were down in the Surry Hills LAC.

Crandell said another priority was quantifying the level of homophobic violence occurring in the area. He was certain more crime was occurring than what was being reported to police, due to the LGBTI community’s traditionally low levels of reporting as some people were still fearful about revealing their sexuality to police.

In his 25 years as a police officer, including his last posting as commander of the Kings Cross LAC, Crandell said he had learnt that certain members of the LGBTI community were the most vulnerable in the city, and often preyed on.

He said the lack of reporting made it difficult to deploy resources and catch those who preyed on them.

Having recently appointed five Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers (GLLOs) and a designated Community Liaison Officer, Crandell said he hoped this would further strengthen the police-LGBTI relationship, and thus reporting levels, by making Surry Hills Police Station a place people feel comfortable visiting.

While the GLLOs were there to support members of the LGBTI community, Crandell said he expected every other officer to show the same level of support and consideration. If they did not, he would like to know about it.

Crandell told the Star Observer about an upcoming strategy to tackle antisocial behaviour on Oxford St which will begin this summer and take place between 10pm-3am on Saturday nights during peak periods.

Working in tandem with initiatives implemented by former Surry Hills LAC commander and current NSW Police LGBTI corporate spokeswoman Donna Adney, the new strategy will draw in officers from a number of police units, including the gang and motorcycle squads.

“My goal during peak times will be to see as many police officers on Oxford St as possible so that if I am walking down there as a police officer I can look over my shoulder and see another [police officer],” Crandell said.

When asked about heavy-handed policing at LGBTI events like Sleaze Ball in recent years, Crandell recognised there were community concerns and said he was hopeful of striking a balance by personally approaching each and every complaint with a fair and even-handed approach.

While Crandell said he was not in favour of police using heavy-handed tactics, he said the issue was complex as, in some situations, negotiations break down and matters could escalate to create dangerous environments.

By JEREMY MASPERO

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