Police report rising crime, drug use around Richmond injecting room, union survey reveals

Published by the Herald Sun on May 22, 2019

Victoria’s police association has called on the Andrews Government to consider moving the supervised injecting room from Richmond.

An association survey of uniform officers and detectives in the Richmond area found 80 per cent thought crime had increased since the centre opened mid-last year.

Officers also reported a jump in drug use, as well as the “presence of drug-affected persons”.

Almost 70 per cent of police surveyed said the injecting room had impacted their day-to-day work, with an overall increase in crime boosting their workload.

Police association boss Wayne Gatt said more frontline police were needed to tackle the increased crime, as well as mental health and welfare call-outs.

He also urged the government to consider moving the centre, which is now at North Richmond Community Health, from “residential and family areas”.

The supervised injecting room sits in one of Melbourne’s most densely populated suburbs, and next to a primary school.

The location was chosen because of Richmond’s long-running and deadly drug problem.

“The Police Association did not stand in the way of this trial,” Mr Gatt said.

“Given the amount of public overdoses and deaths, we acknowledged that this was a serious health issue that needed to be addressed.

“Our members were often the first responders to overdoses.”

Some Richmond residents have also criticised the location of the centre, and have pointed to the success of Sydney’s Kings Cross injecting room in a commercial and transport hub.

“I totally reject the argument that you have to put it where the action is,” resident Bruce Maton said.

“Could you have chosen a better location? Absolutely.”

New street patrols and better lighting will be rolled out in Richmond, with the injecting room’s opening hours to be extended when a new building opens in about a month.

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick called for more police to be deployed in Richmond to combat the suburb’s “honey-pot mentality”.

An extra 15 frontline offers have been allocated to the City of Yarra area in the past two years, but Mr Southwick said none were dedicated to the injecting centre or its effect.

“Police are absolutely hamstrung in doing their job,” he said.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said statistics showed crime had dropped in Richmond in the six months after the injecting room opened, but “clearly members are feeling the pressure on the ground”.

“It is saving lives but we want to get this right for everyone in that community,” he said.