Private security guards and closed circuit TV, rather than police alone, could be the key to reducing violence along Oxford Street, a community forum has heard.
The Oxford Street violence forum on Tuesday night heard Council and businesses should consider the non-police security options because police were struggling to deal with anti-gay violence by themselves.
About 40 people attended the forum organised by ACON and the City of Sydney to hear community experiences of violence on the strip.
Detective Inspector David Egan-Lee from Surry Hills Police told the forum his station had only 10 officers on duty at any one time, although this rose to 16 or 18 in peak periods like Friday and Saturday nights.
I’d love to be able to put police [on Oxford Street] all the time, but I don’t physically have the resources to do it, Egan-Lee said.
Local residents expressed their dissatisfaction with the police response to local violence.
One resident who gave his name as Francis said the situation was unacceptable but could be improved with private security guards -“ even if they had less power than police officers.
It’s about presence, he said. I guarantee it will have some effect.
Francis suggested local businesses fund the security guards.
Several delegates called for closed circuit television cameras along Oxford Street.
The City of Sydney’s acting chief executive Monica Barone said Council would investigate the proposal. The City currently operates 58 CCTV cameras but none of them are on Oxford Street.
But Robert Tait from Darlinghurst Business Partnership said the cameras would undermine privacy.
A lot of people come here to indulge themselves in very private pursuits and the last thing they want is being filmed while they’re going into certain venues, Tait told the forum.
Instead, the gay community should consider uniformed angels to patrol Oxford Street.
That worked for a couple of years [in the 1980s], it got the problem down, Tait said.
If the police can’t do it, somebody else can do it.
City of Sydney Greens councillor Chris Harris suggested the return of a mobile police van on Oxford Street.
Detective Inspector Egan-Lee said the van, which was on Oxford Street in past years, was removed after locals complained it was intimidating.
The meeting also exposed continuing differences between ACON and Surry Hills Police over a gay and lesbian liaison officer (GLLO), reported in last week’s Sydney Star Observer.
Lovney reiterated that the lack of a full-time Surry Hills Police GLLO was making anti-violence work harder.
He also said the statewide gay and lesbian liaison officer (GLLO) program was in complete disrepair.
Earlier this year ACON obtained a list of Western Sydney GLLOs to invite them to a Mardi Gras float, Lovney said.
We rang all 38 of them. Only one of them was left at their post. The other 37 had been transferred.
Detective Inspector Egan-Lee said Surry Hills Police had asked for a permanent GLLO position with the rank of sergeant, but NSW Police management had refused.
He said someone would be recruited soon to coordinate NSW Police’s gay and lesbian liaison program. The position is currently vacant.