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Safety beats numbers game

NORTHBRIDGE is a safer place to visit than a year ago, according to statistics which contrast the public and media perception about crime in the popular night spot.

Compared to the 1998-99 crime statistics, 1999-2000 figures show common assault has fallen 17.5 per cent, assaults on police officers dropped 27 per cent and robbery is down 56.8 per cent.

Offences against the person are down 11.6 per cent and motor vehicle theft and attempted motor vehicle theft have dropped 5.4 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively.

The security cameras, the Perth Accord and a beefed up police presence on Friday and Saturday nights are lauded as the main reasons for the improvement.

Perth District’s Superintendent Ron Carey said there was even anecdotal evidence hinting at a reduction in anti-social behaviour in Northbridge, the one square kilometre precinct which plays host around 30,000 people Friday and Saturday nights.

Mama Maria’s owner Mal Bennett said there was less trouble in Northbridge now than 10 years ago.

“The Perth City Council’s security cameras have made for even quicker police response times, regardless of the day of the week,” Mr Bennett said.

“But security in Northbridge is an ongoing process. Things change.”

Mr Bennett said the police approach had helped curb a lot of the problems that had plagued Northbridge.

Supt. Carey described the police’s approach as targeted policing, with officers deployed depending on trends, intelligence or even just the mood of the night. Inspectors commanding officers in Northbridge have discretion to move officers to potential hotspots.

He said if police felt the mood of the night was going sour in a particular nightspot they would try and solve any problems in conjunction with the owner.

The police set up a post in the Perth Railway Station to improve response times in the CBD and Northbridge. The control centre for the closed circuit cameras is also based there.

Supt. Carey said the 1997-formed Perth Accord was a big help in curbing problems in Northbridge.

The accord set out to define standards of behaviour deemed acceptable in Northbridge. Anyone not meeting those standards would be removed.

It also promotes the responsible serving of alcohol. Mr Bennett said most pubs and nightclubs adhered to that.

“Most of the problems occur at the places that are open late at night,” he said.

The policy has since been adopted by Fremantle, which faces similar problems.

Attracting families is one of the main aims of Northbridge businesses and the council. Both believe negative perceptions are keeping families away.

Northbridge restaurateur Harry Ferrante said while businesses were concerned about perceptions of the precinct, the number of families coming in were increasing.

“Crimes were reported to have been committed in Northbridge when in fact they were committed elsewhere,” Mr Ferrante said.

“Northbridge is obviously not St Peter’s Square. People come here to have a good time so you’re going to get a little broken glass on occasions.

“Certain elements are likely to create some anti-social behaviour but that is not going to happen until 2am or 3am.

“I am a resident of Northbridge. I honestly believe it is a safe place. It’s so reassuring when you see families coming in.”

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