By Asleen Mauthoor
The brutal attack on Aiia Maasarwe, with its eerie similarities to the Eurydice Dixon case, has again raised the issue of personal safety in Melbourne, particularly at night.
Melbourne East Local Area Commander, Insp Craig Peel stressed that anyone should contact the police if they felt vulnerable.
“Even if you just have a feeling of being unsafe. If you’re feeling sick, you’d call an ambulance, if you’re feeling unsafe, call the police. If you can’t call the police, who can you call?” he said.
“There’s the misconception that people should only contact the police if a crime is being committed or an emergency is taking place. However, especially late at night and early in the morning, the police are the only ones who are contactable.
There’s a priority of calls system, so your concern isn’t detracting from other crimes. If you don’t call, you won’t get a response.”
He recommends taking note of your location. “I make sure I look at the street signs around me. If you’re not comfortable going into a dark car park or area, wait until there are more people around, or talk to the Protective Services Officers who are stationed at every train station.”
Insp Peel believes a sense of communal responsibility is crucial to maximising our personal safety. “If I’m in an isolated area, and I notice there are five street lamps out, I’ll report it,” he said.
City of Melbourne “people city” chair Beverley Pinder, also emphasises the importance of a sense of “communitarianism”, as well as exercising individual precaution to maintain safety in the CBD.
“Melbourne’s DNA is born from helping and looking out for each other and we need to maintain that. It’s the people factor – each of us needs to add another layer of awareness and be mindful of others,” Cr Pinder said.
“We have an increasingly ageing population in the CBD. In a crowded city we need to be caring about others and report anything odd.”
“The city is safe. We want people to come in and enjoy the vibe and the events. On New Year’s Eve, 400,000 people came into the CBD, and only 59 people were arrested state-wide. Given the robust care and attention that the Melbourne police provide, I have no doubt the city is safe.”
Cr Pinder advised that the City of Melbourne had invested in safety infrastructure such as 65 CCTV surveillance cameras around the city, with another 30 to be installed, as well as security lighting and public address speakers for use in the event of emergencies.
On an individual level, Cr Pinder suggested keeping in touch with family and friends when out.
“Tell someone where you are and what you’re doing. Just having someone asking you ‘What time will you be home?’ will instil another level of awareness,” she said.
“Using our devices can mean we are losing contact with the environment, whether we are on the street, tram or train. We need to maintain an awareness of our surroundings and ask ourselves ‘where am I right now?’”
We can, however, use technology to help keep us safe. There are personal safety apps available, which enable you to stay connected to friends and family when out alone, and which can trigger an alert if required.
For further tips on personal safety, visit www.police.vic.gov.au