Tonight I was walking through the Jam Factory in Chapel St with some friends. We were approached by two women who said they were doing a quick one minute survey for the police. I kind of reluctantly obliged. Hold up, the police are doing a survey!? WTF?
They asked ‘did you notice the extra police presence tonight?’ At first I thought ‘yeah sure’. Then it occurred to me, Chapel St is chock a block full of cops every Friday and Saturday and changed my answer. They setup a police truck and have cops by the dozen flanking it; usually next to the KFC near Commercial Road. Especially on a hot summers night. If anything, there were actually LESS COPS out tonight! But they did have police out on horseback for a change, which was unusual.Not to mention the roadworthy spot checks and booze buses they’ve been doing for years behind Chasers nightclub.
The next question was something like ‘do you feel safer with the extra police around?’ My response was an resolute no! By this stage it was clear that the ladies were more than likely coppers themselves (decent looking and nice to talk to too!). Public opinion was taking its toll on them.
For a start, they’d copped (no pun intended) a bunch of flack for the massive V8 police cars patrolling in 40 kph urban zones. And particularly the fact they’re always en route to somewhere or in police stations that basically resemble military barracks (most in the south eastern suburbs virtually are).
Interestingly one of the ladies, cop or not, and I got talking about experiences in Peru. In Peru it was typical South American stereotypical stuff. Two cops would be reclined all day in a Landcruiser parked in the centre of town. Usually napping behind the heavily tinted glass. You might think this is bad. But when you needed a cop, you could always find one and bang on the window. It keeps bad guys in check too knowing they might wake up a copper if they’re too loud.
And they were always in a public place keeping one eye out. Even if the other one was being rested. She kind of conceded it’s better to have cops on the street, maintaining a visible presence. Sometimes they stood around in jack boots with automatic machine guns, but they were nice guys. And it wasn’t the gun that made me feel safe. It was the fact they were physically on the street.
Then I thought of Japan and how in their major metropolis’, they have tiny police boxes everywhere. More like a kiosk than a police station, scattered amongst vending machines and bike racks. Some big enough to situate maybe 4-6 police. This puts police right in the public eye. And there’s always somewhere safe to run to. Many modern day slaves of the Yakuza conned into being prostitutes have made a mercy dash for the police box and been saved. Where are our permanent police boxes in Melbourne? Damn right, they don’t exist.
So before this gets to AM talk back radio, I’m gonna wrap this up! For police even to conduct such a survey, something is pathetically wrong. They have become like a spoilt only child with Hummers, V8 Holdens and horses and bright, shiny vests but forgotten what they’re here for. Not to play with their toys, but to protect us.
Now to prove I’m not all AM radio here, frankly I know nothing about policing. So by all means, comment your heart out. Set me straight! I don’t mind and I’m certainly not anti-police. I only know when I do feel safe. And despite the first/third world contrast, at times I felt safer in Peru knowing at worst a cop was a few hundred metres away. In Melbourne, I have absolutely no idea.
So put the bling Hummers to rest, polish up those boots and start walking the beat. Setup a deck chair in the centre of town and maintan a presence. For fucks sake, have a kip in your car! But get out in the cold hard light of day and become a part of the community again.