Surry Hills Police Commander Donna Adney has appealed for witnesses to violent and anti-social crime in the Oxford St area – not just victims – to come forward and commit to testifying in court.
“The evidence of an independent witness is hugely important to any case. We need the community to help us,” Supt Adney told SSO.
“We need them to ring us straight away or ring 000. They’ll ask you to stay on hold and talk through what is happening. They will relay that real-time to police.”
The appeal comes as the new Commander moves to increase communication with the gay and lesbian population and re-build confidence in local police – beginning with the symbolic move of joining the Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officers in the Mardi Gras parade.
Adney has appointed a new inspector with a reinforced responsibility for that engagement and implemented a new tool for identifying prejudice-related crime.
Inspector Paul Jones, who has extensive experience at Kings Cross command, will take over the Surry Hills customer service portfolio and build relationships through the new Safety Precinct Committees.
“All of this community interaction is important from a policing point of view because it helps us identify who are victims and who are potential or actual offenders,” Adney said.
“The more information we get in, the better our profile gets, and as that profile gets better we can put strategies over the top to particularly address a particular issue.”
Frontline officers in Surry Hills have been given a short list of questions to ask victims to identify prejudiced motives – without leading them.
“We want them to tell us, not so much if they perceived if it was prejudice, but what was said or done at the time because that’s the definitive answer for us on why they were targeted,” Adney said.
“It’s important we don’t assume why a person has been victimised, we deal in facts and evidence.”
The new questions are supplementary to existing, but underutilised, measures used by police to record the number of sexual preference prejudice incidents.
Research conducted last year by Sgt Brad Scanlan, then attached to the NSW Police’s GLBT project, found dozens of incident reports containing the words “queer” or “faggot” that were not tagged as sexual preference prejudice.
As a result of that underreporting of homophobic crime, Scanlan conducted training for Surry Hills officers in using the prejudice tags.
Adney has committed to renew that day-training for all Surry Hills officers and to encourage more to sign up for extensive Gay and Lesbian Liaison Officer training.
But Adney stressed that there were many different groups from different demographics who come to Surry Hills and victims of crime did not all come from the gay community.