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Police battle “fear of crime” on Hutt Street - as much as actual crime

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SA Police says it is deploying extra resources to combat “fear of crime” in the Hutt Street precinct as much as the rate of actual crime, which remains stable despite claims of escalating violence.

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Superintendent Craig Wall told InDaily this morning that extra SA Police resources were being deployed to “reduce crime and the fear of crime” in the area.

He said police were “trying to get it across that it is a safe place to live and work, and do business”.

“We don’t want (residents) to be afraid of … living in the area,” he said.

Wall, the officer in charge of the Eastern Adelaide Local Service Area, agreed that repeated public claims of escalating violence were likely to create a vicious cycle for Hutt Street businesses, potentially discouraging customers from visiting the area, and that “the continued debate around Hutt Street (is) drawing more undue attention to the area”.

He said that while violent crime does occur in Hutt Street, just as it is does in other parts of the city, police have seen no evidence of an escalating problem in the area.

“We haven’t seen any increase in the violence in Hutt Street,” he said.

“Our statistics don’t say there’s been an increase.

“However, there’s been an increase in focus on the violence in Hutt Street.”

He said SAPOL had been dispatching officers in uniform and plain clothes, as well as the Dog Operations Unit and the State Tactical Response Group both to ensure public safety and to assure residents and business operators that Hutt Street and its surrounds were safe.

The Adelaide City Council has committed to installing five new CCTV cameras on the street, commissioning security guard patrols and establishing a precinct working group.

SA Police is represented on the working group, which is due to meet later this month.

Wall would not be drawn on whether he believed the security guards were necessary for public safety on Hutt Street, but said: “If they (city councillors) think it’s necessary we’ll work with them.”

“(It’s) not up to me to say it’s necessary or not.”

Councillors Alex Antic and Anne Moran have been urging their council colleagues to act, citing a series of complaints about violence in Hutt Street and footage of altercations there, over recent months.

Antic told fellow councillors earlier this year there would be “blood” on their hands if they failed to adequately respond to violence on Hutt Street.

He said that a woman had been “stabbed” there – a claim SA Police subsequently described as “inaccurate”.

The south ward councillor has also penned columns, published in The Advertiser, warning that someone may soon be “killed” if authorities fail to act, and that “on a daily basis, the people of that precinct are terrorised by the scourge of serious criminal and anti-social behaviour”.

The owner of Bici Café, located opposite Hutt Street Centre for the homeless, told morning radio last week that she was selling the business because of violent incidents over the past 12 months.

Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink told InDaily this morning that “the State Government shares the concerns regarding public safety issues on Hutt Street”.

“We are working with all the homelessness service providers in the CBD to prevent the Hutt Street Centre from becoming overloaded,” she said.

Moran has suggested the Hutt Street Centre move to another location – potentially the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site – in order to reduce anti-social behaviour in the southeast corner of the CBD.

As InDaily revealed yesterday, the Hutt Street Centre board is now considering relocating as a result of local “discontent”.

Wall said those who use Hutt Street Centre at its current location would use it in any other CBD location but it was vital that the service remains in the city.

“The Hutt Street Centre provides a very good service to the community,” he said.

“Those services that the Hutt Street Centre provide need to be somewhere in the CBD (that homeless people) can access.

“If they want to move Hutt Street Centre that’s fine (… but) services need to be in the CBD.”

Asked whether the day centre’s clients were involved in violent incidents that had occurred in the precinct, Wall said: “Some of the issues are involving clients of the Hutt Street Centre (but) some of them aren’t involving clients of Hutt Street Centre.”

He said SA Police was committed to working with the local community in addressing safety concerns and urged anyone witnessing violent behaviour, or expecting behaviour to escalate to violence, to call police.

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