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Hutt St security guard sent away after reporting one incident in two months

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The owner of the café opposite the Hutt Street Centre says she is considering legal action after the presence of an Adelaide City Council security guard, whom she requested, coincided with a severe decline in her business.

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Bici Espresso owner Toni Leverink requested the ratepayer-funded security guard, who was posted there in April, following a number of disturbances and incidents at the front of her café, caused by people under the apparent influence of drugs.

But last week she asked the council to remove the security guard, as she “no longer required” the service.

Leverink told InDaily this morning that the security guard’s presence at her café had only served to turn customers away, fearing the café was unsafe.

“People have stayed away in droves since I’ve had that security guard,” she said.

“To have someone stand to attention in my shop all the time is very daunting.

“I’m just trying to save my business at the moment … not that I didn’t think (the security guard) was warranted.”

The council has spent about $22,000 posting the security guard to the café, as one of a number of measures designed to combat what some councillors and business people have argued is a rise of crime – but a reluctance to report it – on the southern end of the street.

The nearby Hutt Street Centre, which cares for homeless people, has been forced to defend its position on the street as a result of the controversy, which SA Police have suggested is overblown.

Last night’s council meeting heard that the security guard had reported one incident to police during the 71 days he was posted there.

In response to a question on notice, council staff said the incident involved an apparently intoxicated and verbally abusive woman, who had previously made threats to café staff.

Leverink told InDaily this morning she was considering legal action, but would not say what form that would take, or against whom.

But she argued that the city council had not helped her and media coverage had also caused her difficulties.

She claimed she had been misquoted in reports that she was going to shut down her café.

However, she had told morning radio in April that she was selling it, and told InDaily this morning that she would indeed be forced to shut it down if business did not improve.

She also said that the staff of Hutt Street Centre had boycotted her store, because they believed she wanted it closed down.

Area councillor Anne Moran has argued the homelessness service centre should be moved elsewhere.

But Leverink said she never wanted the Hutt Street Centre shut.

“I just wanted them to control what’s going on outside.”

She told InDaily Moran and South Ward councillor Alex Antic were “absolutely brilliant” but they had been “torn to shreds” in the public debate.

Antic had told fellow councillors earlier this year they would have “blood” on their hands if they did not act swiftly against escalating violence on Hutt Street.

“I don’t blame him (Antic) a bit – he was the one being persecuted by other councillors,” Leverink said.

Moran said posting a security guard to the café had always carried the risk of discouraging customers, but that Leverink had wanted to feel safe.

She argued that Hutt Street Centre, for “all its good work and all its good intentions” was not effective and that it needed to be moved somewhere that had a “buffer” zone between it and residents, and businesses.

Other than that, Moran said, she was happy to do whatever would help the fortunes of the street, and that she felt sad for those involved.

Hutt Street Centre board chair Phil Donato told InDaily this morning that his staff “continue to support the precinct and its businesses wherever possible”.

“We strive to collaborate with local businesses to ensure that Hutt St is as a thriving and successful precinct,” he said.

“We welcome the opportunity to meet with Bici Espresso to discuss any concerns the café may have.”

Leverink said the ordeal of the past few months had taken a toll on her, physically and mentally.

“I’m just trying to resurrect my business. I don’t know what the answer is.”

Lord Mayor Martin Haese told InDaily in a statement today: “The City of Adelaide employs security personnel both on a permanent and temporary basis throughout the city at various locations including retail precincts such as Rundle Mall and the Central Market.”

“Council responded to repeated requests from the business owners for a security presence in relation to concerning incidents in the immediate and general area of the café.

“The City Council continues to work closely with businesses and residents in the Hutt St precinct regarding concerns about anti-social behaviour.”

SA Police have been attempting to reduce anti-social and criminal behaviour along Hutt Street, but they say there has been no significant increase in criminal activity there in recent months.

Superintendent Craig Wall told InDaily earlier this year he was also trying to reduce “fear of crime”, which reduced visitors’ business operators’ and residents’ feelings of safety, and had been encouraged by the controversy.

InDaily contacted Antic for comment.

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