Community safety: Prevention must be the aim, not increased surveillance

There has been much community discussion about how to make women feel safer on the streets late at night. The police and Liberal leader Tony Abbott have called a big expansion in the number of CCTV cameras.

The expansion of CCTV cameras, already a civil liberties concerns, would do little in reality to make women safer on the streets at night. Research demonstrates that CCTV cameras don’t prevent crime.

We oppose the current widespread use of surveillance technologies, and are disturbed at attempts to increase surveillance. People have the right to go about their business without their location constantly being tracked.

Such surveillance technologies do nothing about the causes of violence in our society. The focus should be on PREVENTION of all violence against women, whether in public or private, racist attacks and alcohol-fuelled violence.

The overwhelming majority of sexual and physical assaults of women take place in private by  someone known to the victim.

As long as our society finds it acceptable to treat women as sex objects and treats some women as having “asked for it”, sexual assaults will continue.

A community safety campaign needs to tackle sexist culture and empower women as well as put in place practical measures to assist women:

  • A well-funded education campaign that counters misogynist views and sexist culture as well as ethnic stereotyping and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Good street lighting, including side streets and back streets, especially streets surrounding late night drinking venues
  • Affordable, on-call public transport options for late nights.
  • There could be a courtesy bus that visits key nightlife areas to pick people up and drop them at their door in surrounding suburbs or at major transport hubs
  • The Moreland Council needs to prioritise and increase resources to its family violence prevention strategy.
  • A community reference group needs to be established for ongoing consultation and to guide implementation of the strategy with regular reporting back to the community.
  • Maintaining public phone boxes on all suburban streets with emergency numbers that can be dialled for free.
  • The police need to demonstrate that assaults against women will be taken seriously (currently, some women don’t report assaults because the some police trivialise them)
  • Funding to domestic violence and sexual assault services must be increased
  • Enforcing licensing laws and responsible service of alcohol