Monash residents’ fear of violent crime overblown by “sensationalism”

century city
Century City Walk, where a recent violent brawl between two school groups took place.

MONASH citizens have expressed growing concern over an increase in violent crime, but research shows their fears may be largely overblown by “sensationalist” reporting.

recent study found that crime is now the number one concern for Victorians, and a Monash-specific assessment concluded that feeling safe was a “top priority” for the community. However, the general perception of safety in Monash has declined in recent years; one survey revealed just 58% of people felt safe walking at night compared to 73% in 2011. This perception has dropped yearly, even though Monash ranks safer than 68 of 75 Victorian suburbs, and has a crime rate of below average.

“Despite these statistics, many local people are fearful of crime and this is affecting their quality of life,” said Monash Mayor Rebecca Paterson.

Our own survey revealed just 35% of Monash residents felt equally safe today as they did five years ago, with violent crime being their predominant fear. Most cited the media as the primary reason for their answer.

Results taken from 20 surveys done at random across Monash. (Click for full-sized image).

A recent brawl in Glen Waverley was labelled by several news outlets (such as Channel 9) as an “Apex gang” incident, despite police dismissing the links early on. Another report following the fight said residents were told to “stay indoors“, though police said nothing similar. Mayor Paterson said such reporting creates “unnecessary anxiousness”.

“For media outlets to report unfounded claims in such a situation where Victoria Police dismissed them and is undertaking an investigation is irresponsible and sensationalist,” she said.

“You see it on the news and it looks shocking,” said Chen Lim, an employee at Century City Walk, where the brawl occurred. “It’s just unexpected.”

Monash’s crime rate has risen in recent years, though most of the offences contributing to its rise are non-violent, with theft and drug crimes forming the brunt of the increase. Violent crimes such as rape and homicide have declined. Police previously stated that “a handful of people” had committed numerous crimes such as tap-and-go offences, which “forced up” the crime rate.

A new Monash Community Safety Innovation Board was established in February, composed of representatives from Victoria Police, Council, Monash University, and the Department of Justice. Mayor Paterson said its purpose is to “ensure residents feel safe in their own homes and neighborhoods”.

“The Board will spend about six months researching safety issues in the area and develop recommendations for an innovative approach which improves safety on-the-ground, while also tackling unfounded fears,” she said. “We will continue to work with Monash residents to improve community safety, and perception of community safety.”

Victoria Police declined to comment.

Editorial: Is TV the new home of cinema?

 The idiot box.

So television was dubbed at its dawn, a reflection of an attitude towards a new medium which saw it as an inferior, bland and ‘dumbed down’ version of film. Today, the saying is ostensibly dead, and the sentiment should be too, but some critics still argue that television should be “accessible, and more or less unchallenging” – to, apparently, “save the heavy stuff for the big screen.” One such critic cites Hannibal, the acclaimed NBC series which ran from 2013 to 2015. Hannibal wasn’t what you’d call a ‘hit’- it never found a large audience, its ratings middled even when accompanied by never-ending critical and fan love, and accordingly, he argues it never “made a mark.” It went “too far,” he writes- “too deep, too dark…too intelligent.” But in TV’s evolving landscape, this argument is simply untrue, and soon to be even more dated. Whilst some programming lends to the notion (see Married at First Sight, for instance), these are increasingly the minority. Television has evolved into something which respects its audience arguably more than most mainstream cinema does, and with networks like HBO and rising services like Netflix, it only gains more prestige and becomes more challenging, whilst scarcely being inaccessible, and pulling massive audiences. The modern audience is more intelligent than most credit them for, and their taste in television reflects it.

Mads Mikkelson
Hannibal was deemed “too intelligent” for television for it to survive, but this isn’t the case- and its cast hints it may even return soon.

Hannibal didn’t need to be a hit to leave its mark. Dark, violent, austere, often (in its creators own words) playfully pretentious, and consistently acclaimed for brilliant, innovative storytelling, Hannibal redefined what television could achieve, bringing arthouse cinema to the small screen. With a keen sense of character, surrealist imagery, technical brilliance (the cinematography was unfailingly striking), an unreliable narrator, and hand-in-hand explorations of insanity and morality, Hannibal was up with the peak of indie films, and in the face of its own cancellation, evolved even further from a more user-friendly procedural into a full blown character study.   Hannibal had the utmost respect for its audience, small as it may have been. It didn’t hold their hands, but trusted them to follow along, and the intelligence and respect of the show for its viewers could always be relied upon in turn. Despite all that, and even with the funding of French studio Gaumont to keep it on air, it bowed out quietly (and boldly) in 2013. As Lecter himself remarked in the final season, “fate has a habit of not letting us choose our own endings” – and yet, while it may have been slightly too late to save him, his words grow increasingly less sure for the new era of television.

married at first sight
Where the perception of TV’s audiences preferring non (anti)-intellectual shows comes from isn’t hard to see, but such examples belong to a dwindling minority.

Hannibal’s respect for its audience has been apparent in a great deal of television in recent years. Netflix and HBO continue to pioneer the age of prestige, genuinely intelligent, and cinematic TV. Consider Westworld, Fargo, or House of Cards, to name only a few: covering a variety of genres with original storytelling, they feature sprawling narratives, character studies, and even sophisticated philosophical discussion. Unlike Hannibal, these shows are thriving- Westworld’s thoughtful pilot pulled the greatest initial audience HBO had ever seen. Netflix’s subscriber count keeps increasing. Game of Thrones continues to top ratings boards across the world. Even in the face of unrelenting reality TV and bottom-of-the-barrel soap offerings, they continue to gain popularity. Everyday audiences are more than happy to turn on their brains and engage with intelligent content (which surpasses and respects them more than most of what they see most on the big screen) particularly when presented in an unfiltered way crucially free from advertising or the threat of premature, mid-season cancellation in order for the network to produce a new instalment of Survivor.

Westworld has not shied away from asking- and answering- questions on morality, humanity, and consciousness, neatly packaged as a Western.

When David Fincher created House of Cards, he proclaimed “the world of 7:30 on Tuesday nights, that’s dead…the captive audience is gone. If you give people the opportunity to mainline everything in one day, there’s reason to believe they will.” Television which insulted those audiences’ intellects repelled them, he contended; to show genuine respect for them was the best way to grab them. Despite his repertoire, he explained that film does not allow for complex characterisation and narrative the way television does, saying, “for the past ten years, I’d felt the best writing was happening on television.” Thus, new age television (often released all at once, and all with compelling, intelligent scripts, great characters, and top tier casts) was born, and has since only grown in mainstream, widespread popularity both on and off Netflix. The latter has Cards, but also Stranger Things, Narcos, and more; HBO has the likes of Westworld and True Detective; and even other services (ala Hulu) produce purely serialised adaptions like 11.22.63. None face the threat of being “too intelligent” and “never making a mark” in light of their sophistication and respect for their audiences- they thrive off of it.

frank and claire 2
House of Cards’ casting of Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright was among the first in a trend of casting formerly top-tier ‘film’ actors as television leads.

It should be noted, however, that such audiences have a bad habit of seeing only in binary- in turning to serialised, ‘quality’ TV, episodic series wrongfully gain increasing contempt and disregard. This form of television can be intelligent and respect its audience, too. Whether for a laugh, casual escapism, or heartfelt moments after a long day one can jump into at any time, knowing what to expect, these shows will always have their place on the small screen (for the more committed, they often still offer ongoing arcs and narratives.) The Office, for instance, bowed out long ago now, but it too made a huge impact on TV and wider culture with all of these features. It never disrespected its audience’s intelligence or desires- just in a different way to something like Hannibal- and made its nine-season mark accordingly. Format is not the issue: creators’ intentions and their regard for their audience is.

The Office’s fire scene remains one of the most consistently shared and cited moments of TV comedy, with the episode (Stress Relief) explicitly designed for new audiences after the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, in the age of tentpoles and blockbusters which increasingly favour “fun” over quality, intelligent entertainment, and thus an emerging necessity for wider audiences to turn to often off-putting indie films for genuine cinema rather than hollow escapades, television may be the true new pioneer of the cinematic: it covers all film’s forms and genres cerebrally, but in a way still accessible and respectful to mainstream audiences everywhere. In the light of many more intelligent, dare I say artistic, cinematic shows releasing now and beyond, with intelligent scripts, innovative creators, and brilliant casts, that only seems set to grow truer.

Perhaps, for now, cinema comes best on the small screen.


Community calls for greater action against puppy farms than “flashy legislation” can offer

Despite new legislation from the Andrews Government, Victorian pet owners worry that still “nowhere near enough” is being done about puppy farming, with such legislation scarcely being enforced “where it actually matters.”

Every four minutes a dog is killed in an Australian pound, commonly leftover from litters bred “back to back” in puppy farms. In May 2015, Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford outlined a detailed plan to end puppy farming, following a $5 million grant from the Andrews Government, including breeding restrictions, and a devoted RSPCA Task Force against farming. Yet these statistics persist today.

Joanne Thomas, a passionate opponent of puppy farming, argues this is largely due to an inability- or unwillingness- for authorities to act, with some Councils deeming the issue “too expensive” to combat, and others neglecting to inspect breeding factories at all.  “The authorities need to do a lot more,” she says. “The RSPCA still have nowhere near enough power. They need many, many more resources.” A task force was recently established, but its ability to make meaningful change is limited, with most farms operating secretly, often nestled within legal loopholes.

Joanne with Molly, who was rescued after breeding in a puppy farm for five years.

RSPCA Welfare Policy Manager Mhairi Roberts explains that legislation is “important as a starting base,” but enforcing it proves “very difficult,” with the legal system lacking an “effective framework in place to regulate it.”

Furthermore, even this limited legislation is only enforceable in Victoria. “What a lot of farmers do is buy properties on other states’ borders and then sell from there into Victoria,” Thomas clarifies. “And no one can do anything.”

However, legislation only provides the groundwork with which to combat puppy farming; the greatest power for change may rest with the community itself. “The public definitely cause the most meaningful change,” explains Thomas. “It’s the public which either give these farms business, or knocks them out of it.”

Roberts concurs. “Really, the only reason farms exist is because there is a demand. If the general public was educated, these institutions would cease to exist.”