Calls to declare Oxford St a homophobia-free zone are laudable -” but what will it take to translate them into a lasting reality for our community?
Surry Hills Police Commander Donna Adney seems to have a good grasp of the problem, though her choice of metaphors a fortnight ago was perhaps a little indelicate. It’s like going to a brothel and not expecting to see prostitutes. Don’t go to the Midnight Shift and think that you’re not going to see gay men, said Adney.
Personally, Chinese people and Chinatown came to mind -” and if carloads of racist thugs were choosing to make Chinatown their party central while terrorising Asian Australians, NSW would know there was a problem and something would be done about it.
Yet with a Cronulla riot’s worth of violence directed at the gay community in this state each month, we’re still yet to see homophobic violence become an issue of real priority with our State Government.
Locally, even a doubling of the police presence on the strip won’t do much to stamp out the problem -” thugs see the uniform and desist while police pass, but once out of sight it’s back to the same. And what of all the back streets where bashings and intimidation occur also? Police can’t be everywhere at once.
If something is going to break the pattern of behaviour it has to surprise the thugs when they’re acting at their worst.
In comparable jurisdictions where sex workers have become targets of deranged individuals, it’s been common practice for police to employ undercover operations with officers posing as streetwalkers to tempt perpetrators out.
Putting plainclothes officers on the street in party gear and doing something as simple as walking them through known problem points holding hands would get thugs out of the woodwork and bring problem individuals to police.
Police could take down offenders’ details and book them on an offensive language charge when the homophobic slurs ring out, and if anything more serious occurred, other officers could be waiting in the wings to pounce.
We also know from residents that many of these individuals drive to Oxford St, often returning periodically to their vehicles to do drugs before driving home with a skinful in the early hours of the morning.
Targeted RBT operations in the vicinity may also do a lot to encourage these individuals to find alternative haunts.
Repeat this sort of operation over a couple of months and the strip could soon be liveable once again.