A week before its community forum about violence on Oxford Street, ACON has claimed safety efforts are suffering because Surry Hills Police no longer has a permanent gay and lesbian liaison position.
Until about a year ago Surry Hills Police had one main gay and lesbian liaison officer (GLLO), who also had regular police duties.
After that officer returned to his position at another station, Surry Hills ended the permanent GLLO role. The station now has five officers who have undertaken GLLO training who can be called on to liaise with the gay community.
ACON president Adrian Lovney (pictured) told Sydney Star Observer the new arrangement was absolutely making it more difficult to deal with violence in the local area.
We think there needs to be a single, dedicated gay and lesbian liaison officer rather than expecting five officers to do it on top of their existing duties, he said.
Having a range of police officers who are sensitive to GLLO issues is particularly important in Surry Hills, but it’s not enough.
What we think there should be is one person who is responsible for liaison with the community who can come to the relevant meetings and who can have the input at the right level.
Bligh MP and Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore has also expressed concern about NSW Police’s GLLO program.
In a statement to the Star Moore said the program appeared to have stalled, with a lack of leadership from the centre and slowing of police culture change.
But Detective Inspector David Egan-Lee from Surry Hills Police rejected claims the new system was undermining liaison with the gay community.
Under the revised system, an officer with GLLO training was available at most times of the day or night, rather than only during one person’s shifts, Egan-Lee told the Star.
If we were to have one employed on a full-time basis, two out of every four working shifts may be taken up with gay-related incidents. The rest he would be sitting around waiting for something to happen, he said.
Egan-Lee said members of the gay community were welcome to visit Surry Hills Police to discuss the issue.
Despite the GLLO disagreement, ACON is optimistic its forum at Slide on Tuesday will fine-tune the response to Oxford Street violence.
ACON and the City of Sydney are holding the discussion as part of an ongoing strategy against homophobic attacks. ACON’s Anti-Violence Project has received about six reports of homophobic abuse on the strip since November.
Representatives from ACON, Town Hall and NSW Police will speak at the event before opening the forum to discussion.
What we want to do is provide the community with an opportunity to talk about and share their experiences of violence and to discuss ways in which we can respond to violence on Oxford Street, Lovney said.
The event also has the support of local retailers’ group Darlinghurst Business Partnership. The group has already proposed a controversial Oxford Street safety plan that would see business owners hand pamphlets to troublemakers telling them their behaviour was unpleasant.
Star columnist and forum co-host Maxi Shield -“ who became a safety advocate after experiencing Oxford Street violence first-hand -“ also encouraged the community to turn out in force next week.
We need people there to listen. If they don’t have anything to say, that’s fine, but come along, she said. Information is power.
The Oxford Street violence forum is on Tuesday 18 April at Slide, 41 Oxford St, Darlinghurst, from 7pm to 8:30pm. Admission is free. RSVP and enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or 9206 2066.