Plans to ban gangs from party precinct

Blind spot: A section of Heygarth St, between High and Hare Sts, is one of the major areas of concern. It is a regular “hang out” for the youth groups who are responsible for late-night attacks on revellers.
Streets unsafe at night: Groups of anti-social youths who congregate at the southern end of High St and the northern end of Hare St, including a particularly notorious section of Heygarth St, are attracted to major events and busy weekends in Echuca. Photo by Luke Hemer

A plan to ban groups of youths from Echuca’s party precinct is being developed by venue operators, police and the Echuca-Moama Safety Committee.

The plan is a concerted effort to stop a series of attacks on unsuspecting late-night revellers in the Hare and High Sts entertainment precinct.

Reports of incidents where pedestrians have been assaulted, verbally and physically, by groups of youths roaming the streets have regularly been recorded on Echuca-Moama social media channels.

Entertainment precinct regulations to allow police to take action against individuals considered to have performed anti-social acts could provide an answer to the current issues.

The introduction of the “precinct laws” are the best option to ease the frustration of lawmakers and venue operators with the failure of the Federal Government to provide funding for desperately needed CCTV cameras in the area.

Blind spots in Echuca’s High and Hare Sts entertainment precincts are continuing to attract anti-social behaviour and have community leaders screaming out for enhanced CCTV camera coverage of the area.

Several of the areas that have been the scenes of attacks by youth groups, attracted to the late-night and early morning party zones of Echuca, are without street cameras.

Echuca-Moama Safety Committee, which includes police and several of the entertainment venue operators from the affected area, is making another bid for Federal Government funding of CCTV cameras.

The next round of funding in the Federal Government’s $50 million Safer Communities program was announced in the federal budget earlier this month, with the safety committee already working with a professional submission writer to prepare its application for funds.

The initial application was unsuccessful earlier this year, which meant no change to the current blind spots that are causing police, venue operators and the public significant headaches.

Venue operators have their own cameras, but the attacks often occur when revellers are walking from one location to another — in areas not covered by these cameras.

The offenders are easily identifiable and well known to venue operators.

They seem to be attracted to the area, in particular, during holidays and busy events.

Plans for the development of a precinct that would allow police to lawfully ban people from the High and Hare Sts entertainment area are being devised by concerned parties, including the police and venue operators in the northern end of High St and southern end of Hare St.

If the precinct controls can be put in place it would give police the power to act on the actions of these individuals.

The group responsible for the attacks is believed to be, for the most part, from outside of Echuca.

They have become an unwelcome, but regular, fixture on weekends in Echuca.

The Riv Herald reported on an incident outside McDonald’s more than a month ago and since then there have been several other reports of attacks in the area.

Their actions have been described as threatening, physically and verbally, and have reportedly included knives and other weapons.

High St and Hare St precinct venues are operating legally, required to scan all patrons and ensure they adhere to a variety of laws concerning hours, alcohol and appropriate behaviour of their patrons.

These hotels do not have any power outside of their premises, which are being used by the gangs as the base of their operations.

With these attacks happening on the streets, often well past midnight police are working with venue operators to find a solution.

The number one priority, particularly with an impending election, is to have a guarantee on the installation of security cameras.

Safety committee organisers believe they have all the right people are sitting around the table.

The goal now is to secure the $300,000 funding required to install the 100-plus cameras in areas of the town identified by the police as “hot spots”.