Community feeling unsafe

Jennifer Pittorino

Shoppers are staying away from Nicholson Street, Footscray, because of the number of homeless and drug and alcohol affected people on the street, according to traders and workers.

Dr Berhan Ahmed, who works on Nicholson Street, said he is faced with troubling situations daily.

“For a while we have been dealing with this issue, where homeless people and drug and alcohol affected people have been creating uncomfortable environments for our business clients,” he said.

“It has been traumatic , especially for the women in the shops. It has been really scary.”

Widac Omer works in a store on Nicholson Street and said shop owners and customers are constantly being asked for cigarettes and lighters.

“They come to our shops, they shout, we ask them not to smoke around us but they don’t listen,” she said.

“Our customers don’t come anymore because they are frightened, we want help from council, from the police, from anyone.”

A Victoria Police spokesperson said the community can be assured the priority is making sure people are safe and importantly feel safe in public.

“Police run regular proactive operations and liaise with partner agencies to address rough sleeping and offer assistance to those experiencing homelessness,” the spokesperson said.

“Our priority is to link people in with services that can assist them, whether it be homelessness or drug and alcohol services, however if a criminal offence occurs police will take action.

“We understand it would be confronting to witness incidents of crime or anti-social behaviour.

“If members of the public do witness any criminal or anti-social behaviour, or are concerned for their safety, we urge them to contact police.”

Maribyrnong mayor Sarah Carter said council works collaboratively with police on any matters regarding public safety.

“Council also engages with local homeless agencies to enable assertive outreach support to those in need, and work in partnership with agencies responding to these situations,” she said.

“Public activation of the mall is important in helping the community to feel safe.

“We work actively with traders in Nicholson Street Mall as we continue to provide events in this precinct that are family-friendly events.”