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MCC Summit On Violence

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David Hedgcock Security Consultant

L 1, 161 Victoria Parade Collingwood
B/Tel: 94161333                           Mobile: 0418 395 208             
Email: david.hedgcock1@gmail.com


19th September 2008

Dear Lord Mayor and Councillors,
 
I am seeking a formal invitation from Council to be part of the upcoming Summit on issues associated with the proper management of the night-time City environment.
 
I would like to be included in the summit because I feel that my contribution could greatly enhance the safety of the city. My vast experience, knowledge of the real issues, the way they can be resolved and my frankness can be an important resource to draw from when creating working policies.     
 
I am genuine and, as I have done in the past, will give my time freely to the benefit of the community.

INTRODUCTION

I have prepared this paper as a reference to my request to be involved in the summit and also to counteract recent negative publicity against nightclub crowd controllers.
 
The majority of crowd controllers do an excellent job in the face of very difficult circumstances, without the recognition and support they deserve. There needs to be a better understanding, and bonds need to be formed between all associated parties.
 
While I have had extensive experience in the security industry primarily as a keeper of the peace, I am also a family man who is concerned with ensuring that our City‚s safety is maintained.
I have been at the coalface for over 40 years and, as such, have an excellent understanding of the problems that our community faces.
There is always room for improvement but this must be done through cooperation and consultation, not trial by media. As I have done in the past, I want to continue to work with Victoria Police, local government, venue operators and other stakeholders to ensure Melbourne‚s international reputation is even further enhanced. In the 1990‚s, the Melbourne Accord of which I was actively involved won a national crime prevention award for its proactive efforts.
Nothing much has changed over the years and looking back violence has always marred society but now with more intensive media reporting and of course a dramatic increase in population and visitor numbers it appears to be an epidemic but in reality it is still in proportion.
What does stand out in my mind is that we have gone backward and lost valuable ground we made up in the past with key issues we addressed and managed extremely well to achieve a safer city. I feel that these issues need to be urgently re-addressed and managed. Some of the obvious measures needed are:
·        No Drinking in the Street! People consuming alcohol should only be allowed to do so in a controlled environment (clubs, hotels or entertainment venues etc.)
·        No Hot dog or fast food stands so groups do not gather and loiter around the location of venues (this is a major problem now).
·        Party Buses enforcement and monitoring to ensure they abide to their code of practice (no drinking on the bus).
·        Street Lighting needs to be improved, maintained and to cover larger unlit areas that exist at the moment.
·        Taxi Ranks need to be managed and used correctly abiding to their own code of practice.
·        Taxis should be prevented from stopping dangerously on main thoroughfares dropping off and picking up fares.
·        Taxi compliance with road rules and their code of practice especially fare selection needs to better enforced.
·        A stronger more visible police presence and support.
·        Zero tolerance on anti social behaviour and any form of violence.
·        More Toilets in busy areas to be maintained and cleaned regularly.
·        Communication between police and venues re-introduced
·        An urgent need for educational programs at our schools to teach our young the proper behavioural skills that are acceptable and necessary in our society.
While there are many measures that have to be considered, in a nutshell, I believe it is strong enforcement and the need for urgent education programs that will have the greatest impact on cultural attitudes to violence.
The statement there is no law or order without enforcement is the motto I have operated with throughout my career. To ensure order in our community, we must adopt a zero tolerance approach to all aspects of crime and anti social behaviour.  
                                 
NIGHTCLUB CROWD CONTROLLERS

A High Risk Profession
Work Safe have recently stated that „the Crowd Control Industry plays a crucial role in providing secure environment‚s for all Victorians and it‚s a demanding role with significant risks to health, safety and welfare for those employed as Crowd Controllers‰.
In 2005, the Victoria Police Licensing Services Division (Victoria‚s Private Security Industry Regulator) reported that approximately 360 professional security personnel had received injuries during the course of performing their legitimate operational duties, many of which were assaults by others. In marked contrast, only 38 persons reported receiving injuries because of actions by professional security officers.
On a statistical average, one (1) professional Security Officer receives injuries in the workplace every day with many more injuries going unreported thus not giving an accurate figure to the seriousness of this problem.                                        (source: Security Solutions Magazine Article ˆ May / June 2006 edition).
 
 
Use Of Force On Patrons - The Exception Not The Rule
It is estimated by Melbourne City Council that up to 350,000 people visit Melbourne at night every weekend. Not all are nightclub patrons but nevertheless this indicates a huge number of people who are screened at venue entrances and interact with security inside venues without incident.               This is a testament to the professionalism of those currently employed in the industry and the training they receive.
 
Professional Training
All crowd controllers must undergo mandatory training and licensing by Victoria Police before they can work in licensed venues. The training emphasises conflict resolution and use of force only as a last resort. Even then use of force must only be commensurate with that reasonably necessary to contain an offender or defuse an incident.
 
A Very Difficult and Thankless Job
There is an element of very aggressive and violent people in our society. Often crowd controllers are left to deal with such people without any immediate support from police. Crowd controllers are, of course, unarmed but may have to deal with violent people in possession of weapons.
 
The media always seek to portray crowd controllers in a bad light, and continually focus on a small minority of incidents where crowd controllers have used excessive force. As in any profession, there are always a small percentage of problem employees.
As a result of the poor image of crowd controllers portrayed in the media, it is getting increasingly difficult to recruit people to the industry. This needs to be urgently redressed as it is becoming increasingly harder to recruit diligent employees.
The Lack of Support for Crowd Controllers by Victoria Police

§   Poor policing attitudes towards crowd controllers

Crowd controllers are an essential element in maintaining public order in Œstatic‚ locations. Police resources will never be anywhere near adequate to protect Œstatic‚ locations in the absence of crowd controllers.
 
For these reasons, police and crowd controllers need each other‚s support if public order is to be satisfactorily maintained.
 
Often police will target and charge crowd controllers over minor technical breaches of regulations such as the size of the numbers on their badge or forgetting to carry their licence.
 
Whilst it is important that crowd controllers maintain a high standard, this predominantly technical approach by police in the absence of a broader framework of support, communication, networking and joint strategic planning, because of some of these issues, many crowd controllers are reluctant to seek police support even when serious incidents arise.
 
A way to prevent some of these incidents is simply having direct communication between security and the foot and vehicle police patrols.
 
§   Long response times

Up until recently, when police numbers have been given a small boost, long police response times often occurred when a crowd controller or venue manager called for police assistance (up to 20 to 30 minutes). By the time police arrived the incident was usually over. Injuries can be sustained by all those involved in the incident but quite often the offender has fled the scene by the time police arrived.
 
§   The lack of a visible police presence in entertainment precincts

On numerous occasions the issue of the adequacy of policing in public areas in and around entertainment precincts has been raised by venue operators as a matter of concern, recognising the severe limitations that venue employed crowd controllers have in controlling public behaviour beyond the immediate vicinity of the venues in which they work.
 
The industry has long contended that policing levels in the street on busy nights of the week should be commensurate with the many thousands of people who venture out at this time.
 
The lack of a visible police presence puts significant added pressure on the already difficult role played by crowd controllers.
 
Inadequate Compensation for Crowd Controllers

Often incidents end up in Court. Apart from any injuries sustained or other issues arising from an incident, court action can result in crowd controllers being:

·        Unjustly accused or portrayed by patrons, police and media
·        Significantly out of pocket for legal fees, loss of income, travel expenses, etc
·        Subject to a great deal of stress and anxiety

It can also be very frustrating when a case against a violent offender who may have injured, abused or spat on, or risked the health of a crowd controller through blood contamination, etc is let off very lightly in court, and essentially free to do the same thing all over again.
 
More Positive Action Needed By Government

The Government needs to support the work of Crowd Controllers by:

·        Promoting the industry in a more positive light
·        Encouraging Victoria Police and the Crowd Control Industry to work in greater harmony
·        A much greater visible police presence
·        A zero tolerance approach to street and public order offences
·        A TAC style public awareness campaign to promote better public behaviour.
·        School based programs to educate young people on their behavioural responsibilities in society.
 
If things continue the way they‚re going there will be a drastic shortage of crowd controllers, which will further endanger the general public.

In conclusion, the problems outlined are deeper and much more complex than stated by the Government.
 
I believe it will require a combined effort from all associated parties to ensure that a change in attitude is achieved so that the general public can enjoy the wonderful entertainment this city and state provide.
 
David Hedgcock
Security Consultant