Police and a health official will visit two beats on Sydney’s northern beaches in a bid to educate users about safety and legal issues, after 15 men were charged with offensive conduct in the past three months.
As part of the same beat management strategy, ACON will post safety messages on websites used to discuss the beats.
The strategy, drafted at a meeting last week including NSW Police, the state health department and ACON, follows a series of complaints about beat users at Deep Creek and Middle Creek Reserves in North Narrabeen.
Inspector Graeme Pickering from Northern Beaches Police said officers had patrolled the beats after the recent complaints, charging 15 men with offensive conduct in the past 10 weeks. In the same period, about 50 men have been moved on, but not charged.
Pickering denied police officers had enticed beat users to commit an offence before charging them.
We’re not specifically targeting any group or type of person, whether they be gay or lesbian or whatever, Pickering told Sydney Star Observer.
We just want them to be aware of the area they’re in, he said. It’s basically a family area.
Deep Creek Reserve attracted publicity in 1994 after gay man Stephen Dempsey was murdered following a visit to the area.
In the next month, a Northern Beaches Police gay and lesbian liaison officer and Michael West from Northern Sydney Central Coast Health plan to begin visiting the two reserves as part of the education campaign.
It will really be to release information that these sites are being surveyed, West, an HIV and sexual health promotion manager, told the Star.
It won’t be punitive and it won’t be intrusive.
West and the police GLLO will tell beat users that public sex is a crime, but they are confident the campaign will be effective.
It’s about providing safe communities for beat users. That’s how we’ll lead the conversation, West said.
ACON’s Lesbian and Gay Anti-Violence Project will also take part in the campaign by posting messages on beat discussion websites.
We definitely have concerns about security, especially since the use of the beat has been in the media, AVP coordinator Carl Harris told the Star.
It’s the experience of the AVP that when that happens, it can become a target of homophobic violence. We’ll definitely be telling people to stay aware of what’s going on around them.
Harris praised the police and local council support.
I’m really pleased that the police want to engage in a multi-agency approach. I think that communication has got to help.
Organisers of the safety campaign also plan to give police and council rangers more training about beats.
To report homophobic violence call the AVP on 9206 2116 or visit the AVP website.