Monday 30 March 2009

A safe city, hardly.

In a carefully-worded Council press release recently, it was announced that Cairns is now designated as safe to live, work and visit.

"From surviving cyclones to dealing with domestic violence and the quality of life for our frail and elderly, Cairns has met with stringent criteria to be recognised as a Safe Community under the World Health Organization Safe Communities Program," the statement reads.

And what did they do to commemorate this prestigious honour? They held a sausage sizzle in the middle of the afternoon, while everyone was at work.

Banners have now appeared on selected 'PR' streets, like the airport road, away from crime-ridden areas.

However, this declaration has been met with cynicism from anti-violence and community crime campaigner Barry Neall, who was not invited to the Safe City declaration ceremony by Council.

When CairnsBlog contacted Barry Neall of the Residents Against Crime group on the morning of the event, and he was not aware of it. "No, I didn't know it was on. I have not been invited," Barry Neall said.

In fact, the community organisation has had no communication from Cairns Council to work alongside with them for the Safe Communities programme. The Cairns Police have also expressed surprise at this, which is at odds with the large following the Residents Against Crime community meetings have gathered over the last year, supported of local 846 radio host John McKenzie.

"I'm not impressed with this [Safe City] award at all," Neall says who formed the Residents Against Crime group last year in response to the increasing reported crime figures in Cairns.

"I was talking to Cairns Superintendent this morning and they are working hard to make a change, putting new systems in place" Barry Neall said. "However we need more officers on the beat."

On his RAC Blog, Neall lists numerous news reports of violent crimes committed in Cairns.

Professor Dale Hanson of the Safe Communities program, says that to comply with the accreditation, Cairns Council must engage in public consultation with its residents.

"I talked with Dale Hanson after his trip to Cairns, and so far I've heard of no public meetings organised at all by Council," Barry Neall says. "Our [Residents Against Crime] organisation has not been contacted at all by Council."

“The concept of community safety is broad, covering many aspects of daily life, including people of all ages and taking into account high risk and vulnerable groups and all environments,” Councillor Di Forsyth says.

“This designation underlines that we have-long term sustainable programs in place that create the acceptance of planning for and practicing safety in our homes, our schools our aged facilities, our workplaces and tourism facilities,” Dianne Forsyth says.

However former Police Union president called Cairns the 'Assault Capital of Queensland'. "There have been more assaults and violent crimes against people recorded in Cairns than anywhere in the State," Cameron Pope said last year.

Councillor Forsyth says that the Safe Community recognition lets residents and visitor know that Cairns has been assessed as one with a sophisticated level of processes and responses for a huge range of safety matters. However, she falls sort of explicitly endorsing our town as a safe place to live.

“We are now a member of a network offering us opportunity for future learning and modelling,” Forsyth says.

However, Barry Neal says often the Courts let the whole system down. "We are far from a safe city. Assaults continue to rise in Cairns, yet the Courts are the biggest problem letting people off," Neall says. "You have those who committed the crimes walking out the same door at the victims."

Police said today that they have arrested at least 300 for break ins over the last couple of months, but crime reports continue to alarm locals.

Over the weekend, detectives charged a 14-year-old Whitfield boy with several burglary offences. They also charged a 15-year-old Manoora boy with burglary, and unlawfully using a motor vehicle, and ten counts of entering premises and stealing.

There were a number of hit and run traffic incidents. One incident at Westcourt when a maroon Audi sedan, being driven by a female, collided with the rear of a Kia sedan on Aumuller Street about 1.30pm. The Audi was seen to stop briefly before driving off from the scene. The driver of the Kia sedan received suspected neck injuries from the collision.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, five males broke into the Edge Hill bakery at 2am and assaulted staff before stealing product. A 23-year-old Westcourt woman will face Court after assaulting police on Sunday night.

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