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

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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.

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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.

Wheelers Hill residents concerned by worsening congestion on Jells Road

WHEELERS Hill residents have expressed concern over worsening congestion on their main route of travel, Jells Road, following ongoing refurbishment of the driveway into the local Caulfield Grammar School, which accommodates over 1500 students and staff.

Local resident Heather Stavely said the congestion was “very frustrating” when trying to travel to work, “especially at peak times- there’s just so much traffic”. A council report found Jells Road experienced periods of up to ten minutes of stationary traffic, primarily due to “internal queuing” at Caulfield Grammar. The improvement of the school’s driveway by adding new lanes in and out of the school, and construction of new pick-up and drop-off facilities, aims to alleviate this.

Mrs Stavely said she supports these improvements as the parent of a Caulfield student, but does not believe it will solve the congestion issue. “The new driveway will solve the problem within Caulfield, but not the traffic on Jells Road itself,” she said. “Caulfield are making a lot of progress, but it’s not going to solve the problem.”

Her husband, Alan Stavely, said “more drastic” changes are needed at council level for congestion to improve. “You’d need to change the sequence of the lights, even widen the turnoff at the intersection,” he said.

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Heather and Alan Stavely, two of the concerned and affected residents, pictured in front of the construction work at Caulfield Grammar School.

Caulfield Grammar’s Head of Wheelers Hill Campus Paul Runting said the school was aware of these concerns, and has worked to relieve them. “Impact on Jells Road has been a constant source of concern and complaint from the local community,” he said. “We have attempted a holistic plan so that we do not elongate the disruptive process.” He said further steps like “truck and noise curfews” had been implemented.

Monash Council noted 33 objections were received from neighbours when approving the construction, with key issues including “congestion” and “noise and amenity impact” on neighbouring homes.  “The whole area’s affected,” Mrs Stavely said. “Not just noise; the whole house shakes sometimes.” Mr Stavely agreed. “What’s worse is the dust,” he said. “Everything’s covered in dust.”

Mr Runting said the key issues raised in the objections had been “discussed” and “dealt with”. He said, “The school has been working really closely with neighbours in regard to any noise or other impacts on their properties as these works are undertaken.” These efforts included dilapidation reports completed with neighbours so construction company Civilex could “monitor any impact on neighbouring houses”, he said. Civilex says the project will indeed “address issues with congestion”.

“The long term benefits will be seen immediately,” Mr Runting said, hopeful issues that have “endured over twenty years” may be resolved. “The school are looking forward to providing the community with better parking, traffic flow and amenities,” he said.

Mr Stavely is “hopeful but unconvinced” the new driveway will yield at least some benefit to traffic. “At least the noise and shaking will go away,” Mrs Stavely said. “We just hope it’s worth it.”

The construction is expected for completion by January 2017.