Gated streets in Darlinghurst could be introduced along with a stronger police presence in Surry Hills, as part of controversial proposed crime control strategies.
A number of Darlinghurst roads would be blocked off to traffic to deter street prostitution under a proposal by the East Sydney Neighbourhood Association (ESNA), and supported by Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore. The proposal would close sections of Liverpool, Bourke, Forbes, Burton, and Palmer Streets.
ESNA hopes the closures would reduce problems associated with street prostitution such as kerb-crawling, drug dealing, late-night noise, street fights and defecation on private property. Street prostitution is illegal in residential streets and near schools.
Under the plan the main access points to Darlinghurst’s streets would be blocked to traffic by barricades or gates. Residents would still have access via other roads that most of the kerb-crawlers -“ men driving around looking for prostitutes -“ don’t know about, according to Superintendent David Darcy, commander of Kings Cross Police, who originally put the idea forward.
The proposal comes two years after ESNA successfully won a battle to barricade streets around the Anglican girls’ school SCEGGS. Since 2002, sections of Forbes Street, Forbes Lane, St Peters Lane and Yurong Lane have been either blocked off permanently or with gates which are opened during school hours.
Gundo Frenda, a spokesperson for ESNA, said those closures had made a dramatic improvement to Forbes Street. But we don’t just want to move the problem around the suburb, we want to get it out of the suburb, he said.
Frenda hopes more closures will not only push the prostitutes away from Darlinghurst and into the commercial areas of Kings Cross, but also redirect traffic to make the area more resident-friendly.
However, Maria McMahon, executive officer of the Sex Workers Outreach Project, said road closures simply won’t solve the problem of street prostitution. Each barrier that’s been put up has simply created a displacement effect. That’s not an outcome that makes sense for anyone, she told The Sydney Morning Herald.
Norman Thompson, co-convenor of the Darlinghurst Residents Action Group, agreed. It won’t solve anything. It will just push the sex workers somewhere else, probably to places not as safe for them. It may drive the whole industry underground, which would make it hard for outreach workers to contact them.
Clover Moore said the closures would be a short-term solution to the problem of illegal prostitution. What we need to do long-term is identify an area where it can be legal, she told radio station 2GB. We have to find an area where we can contain it and minimise its impact on the rest of the community.
Superintendent Darcy told the Star the best place for sex workers would be on William Street, so police could concentrate support and safety services on that area. I want street sex workers safe and residents happy and safe from the crime associated with street sex workers.
Meanwhile, Surry Hills is at the forefront of a police crackdown on alcohol-related crime, with an increase in uniformed and undercover police patrolling the area around Oxford Street and Taylor Square in the hope of discouraging heavy drinking in bars and hotels.