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Safety talks not enough

Aun Ngo

Mon Sep 28 2009

Victoria Police

VICTORIA Police are organising information sessions to educate international students on staying safe in Melbourne, but Indian students association FISA says it is not enough.

Latest crime figures from the police show the number of assault offences have risen by 9 per cent in the Melbourne CBD.

The majority of the assaults were drug and alcohol related, and occured on Friday and Saturday nights around the city’s many bars and clubs.

Multicultural liaisons officer at Carlton police station, Constable Bronwyn Carey, said police were doing all they could to ensure international students could continue living safely in the city.

“We do regular talks at universities, especially Melbourne Uni and RMIT focusing mainly on crime prevention,” she said.

Constable Carey said the talks covered safety awareness as well as responsible consumption of alcohol and looking after your mates.

But she said there was only so much police could do during the busy periods over the weekend.

“The city can become a pretty crazy place, and we just don’t have enough police to patrol everywhere at the moment,” she said.

She advised students to stay in a group to minimise the chances of being assaulted, and to avoid certain hot spots late at night.

She said the biggest trouble areas were Russell St, as well as Queen and King streets.

“There are some pretty outrageous fights on Queen St, and with all the strippers on King St you are very likely to run into people looking for a fight,” she said.

“There is the 1am busy period when people get kicked out, then there is the 3am rush and finally the chaos that’s left. If you’re not home by 3am, you’re in a bit of strife I think.”

But surrounding suburbs like Carlton have reported a significant drop in crime.

“I would strongly recommend international students reconsider going out in the city and look instead to alternatives,” Constable Carey said.

“Carlton is pretty quiet on the weekend compared to the city, in fact all crime in Carlton including assaults, is down about 18 per cent.”

But Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) spokesman Gautam Gupta, said police weren’t doing enough to protect international students.

“The police are going around telling us how to protect ourselves, but that just means they are not doing their job,” he said.

Mr Gupta said while violence had increased in general, international students were being targeted more than other groups.

Constable Carey said the offences were not necessarily racially motivated, but due to many international students taking on late night jobs.

“Many international students work late as taxi drivers or at 7-Eleven which leaves them very vulnerable to attack from drunks or people on drugs,” she said.

Mr Gupta said safety talks would benefit international students, but more had to be done.

“The police need to control the drug and alcohol problem in the city, as well as tackling teenage violence before it gets out of hand,” he said.