The question of who was responsible for tackling anti-social behaviour and crime was raised at a Port Phillip council meeting this month, following several residents expressing serious concern and begging council to do more.
Council sought to release the proposed Community Amenity Local Law 2023 for community consultation.
The focus of the meeting was on clause 17 of the draft local laws, which pertains to behaviour on council land. Thirteen residents spoke about their experiences with anti-social behaviour and crime in the municipality.
Charlotte Frajman - who has operated a pharmacy in St Kilda with her husband for 32 years - said at the meeting: “It’s been a very tough 12 months.”
Frajman said she had made 27 calls to police from her mobile phone in January and 70 in February. There were further calls made on a landline phone, and by her husband.
She asked council to remove the public seating (mushroom stools) near her pharmacy - on the corner of Jackson and Fitzroy streets. She said they were a “magnet” for anti-social behaviour and crime.
Frajman said: “If you liaise with the cleaning team. who are just amazing… what they have to pick up and do and deal with - on a daily basis - no human should have to do.”
She said they had been begging for 18 months for the stools to be removed, and proposed they could be replaced with bike racks.
James Radalj said at the meeting that he had “never felt more uncomfortable than walking the streets of South Melbourne”.
Radalj asked if people couldn’t rely on council or police to implement and enforce local laws for crime reduction, then who would?
Other residents at the meeting spoke of harassment, assaults, fights, camping on the streets, slow or no police response, property damage, break ins, thefts, mental health episodes, open drug dealing and use, overdoses, urination, defecation, masturbation and fornication in public.
Councillors Tim Baxter and Louise Crawford said often those involved in crime were vulnerable and experiencing homelessness, poor mental health, trauma, addiction and other challenges.
According to council, several crime reduction measures had already been implemented, including housing and CCTV, but the general consensus among councillors was that criminal behaviour was a police matter, with police resourcing belonging to the state government.
Port Phillip Local Area Commander, Acting Inspector Anthony Town, said: “Overall crime in St Kilda is currently at its second lowest offence rate in a decade.”
Data from the Crime Statistics Agency shows crime dropped across Port Melbourne, South Melbourne, and generally across Port Phillip between 2021 and 2022.
“Despite the decreased levels of offending, local police continue to do everything possible to ensure our local community not only is safe, but also feels safe,” said Town.
He said police were employing regular, uniformed patrols, CCTV and the Mobile Policing Unit to target crime.
He said: "Targeting drug crime remains a top priority for police, with specialised teams of detectives working around the clock to target those looking to profit from manufacturing and trafficking illicit substances."
A motion was carried to amend clause 17 of the proposed local laws to include prohibiting behaviours on council land such as public urination or defecation.
A controversial motion to give council officers the power to direct people who had contravened council law to “move on” or leave council land was lost. Several councillors said “move on” powers would put council officers at risk.
Members of the public will be consulted on the proposed local laws following a unanimous decision by councillors.
The community will also have a say about whether a hoon clause should be included.