Melbourne Ports Labor MP Michael Danby talks about Fitzroy St

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More than three years ago I was raising alarms about the decline of once vibrant Fitzroy St in St Kilda.

Eventually after six months and many Facebook posts and Tweets The Age awoke to the story. My “J’accuse” poster appeared on the shattered windows of our much loved, slightly weird Chronicle bookshop, which was left deserted and in disrepair for three years by a greedy landlord. He put up the rent by an amount this longstanding business could not afford, and has had no one renting for now five years. A genius.

This impacted the business of the French restaurant next door and eventually forced its closure. The effect cascaded down the street.

Then the central planners from Yarra Trams came, with the approval of the council to “improve” the tramstops and at a cost of millions raise the centre of the road.

But it didn’t end there. This of course meant that cars could not perform a U Turn or turn right into council car parks. The street was closed for nearly six months during the winter of 2013. It never recovered. Even the iconic Mirka’s closed.

The hapless and hopeless Port Phillip Council then spent a further million dollars “beautifying” Fitzroy St with palm trees and coloured benches. What a waste. Bozos.

Thank heavens my colleague State Minister Martin Foley has tried to force some sense on them.

On the 16th November a community forum was held at the St Kilda Bowling Club to discuss the problems on and around Fitzroy St and public safety.

J'accuse poster (2)

There have been an increasing number of incidents in the area and the forum was organised by St Kilda police to give local residents and business a chance to voice their concerns to police directly. Led by Port Phillip Inspector Jason Kelly, several members of the police force were there to hear the concerns of residents and local business owners.

The forum was also an opportunity for police to inform the community about some of the steps they were looking to implement to improve safety in the area.

Unfortunately I was unable to attend due to prior commitments, however three of my staff attended, as did a representative from State Member Martin Foleys office, and the newly elected Labor Councillor Louise Crawford.

Missing in action were Liberal Councillors and the three new Greens Councillors. There has been much fanfare and self-congratulations going on amongst the Greens over their recent success in the council election which had the lowest participation levels in the state , however none could be bothered to turn up to a community forum on public safety. While I’m sure posing for pictures and doing social media updates is vital work, I would have hoped that a couple of hours could have been spared to deal with public safety and crime.

It was clear from the responses of those in attendance, and from those who have come into my office, that there is a lot of fear in the community. There are difficult matters that require addressing such as drugs, mental health, public housing, and public intoxication. There is clearly no quick fix to any of these issues however residents can take some comfort in knowing steps are being taken.

One of those steps was an increased police presence on Fitzroy St, and the difference was both instant and promising.

The increased police presence consisted not only of an increase in police foot patrols but also a police truck parked prominently on the street.  The results of this increased exposure have been promising with there being far less trouble on the main strip.

Feedback from those in local businesses has been highly encouraging. They report less shoplifting, less loitering and less aggressive behaviour on the street. These businesses have beared the brunt of anti-social behaviour due to their position across the street from the Gatwick and where public seating has been provided. The unfortunate result of this has meant that along this part of Fitzroy St is where some will choose to loiter all day begging, getting drunk, or getting themselves into fights.

On the 16th December the newly installed CCTV camera’s on Fitzroy St went live. A launch was held which was again attended by staff from my office, State Member Martin Foley, Mayor Bernadene Voss, and Labor Clr Louise Crawford. Once again none of the new Greens Councillors thought it worthy of attending.

At the launch Victoria Police Port Phillip Local Area Commander, Inspector Jason Kelly told those in attendance of how the increased police presence has resulted in a sharp increase in arrests on a variety of charges.

It is alarming that crime and public safety are not issues of concern to the Greens, however we are not alone in that regards in Port Phillip. Many across the country were shocked and appalled at the news that the CCTV camera’s installed after the brutal rape and murder of Jill Meagher were to be removed courtesy of the Greens on Moreland Council, despite the State government spending a quarter of a million dollars on the cameras.

Public safety is a top of mind issue these days for residents and Fitzroy St shopkeepers. It should be the same for public officials.

I commend the work of local police as well as those on council who have taken an interest.

Together we can make a difference.

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