POLICE AND COMMUNITY UNITE TO PREPARE FOR PLAYGROUND
POLICE and community leaders are joining forces to clean up Dawson Mall and convince residents it is a safe place to build a $1.6 million neighbourhood playground.
The measures already taken range from covert police operations clamping down on drug crime and alcohol-fuelled violence, to Blacktown Council’s antigraffiti programs cleaning away tags and rebranding alcohol-free zones.
There have also been combined State and Federal Government initiatives, such as The Elders Patrol — a group of Samoan elders who patrol the streets of Mt Druitt at night — which have been credited with stopping antisocial behaviour from esca- lating into all-out violence.
Mt Druitt police crime prevention officer Senior Constable Paul Bates, Blacktown Mayor Stephen Bali and Ward 4 councillor and Mt Druitt MP Edmond Atalla (pictured) met in Dawson Mall recently to discuss the problem area.
The group claims it has noticed a drop in crime and anti-social behaviour in the public space between West- field and the library. But it says community support is vital to the project’s success.
Cr Bali said a neighbourhood playground in Dawson Mall was a perfect fit.
“How do you resolve anti-social behaviour? I think you do that by bringing in activities and encouraging families to use the area,” he said.
Sen-Constable Bates, of Mt Druitt police, welcomed the plan.
“Crime in Dawson Mall has dropped in general but there are still the occasional problems,” he said.
“We run a number of operations in the area. But I also think the community become more aware of an area when they feel ownership, so we would definitely support any investment in this area.”
Cr Atalla recently moved into an office overlooking the mall and said he had seen a decrease in anti-social behaviour.
“I can say from my own observation, I am seeing a decline in anti-social behaviour in Dawson Mall,” he said.
He credits educational programs run in schools by police and the council’s pro- active graffiti removal for the improvement.
Cr Atalla said the new park would not come without plans for its protection and security.
“If council is investing $1.6 million we need to protect our own asset and that will need to form part of the project’s management and delivery,” he said.
It is still not known what the playground will include but the council has not ruled out including water-play features.
Cr Atalla said a security guard could be employed to protect the playground during construction and after it opened.
“That is not an unusual thing at all. I mean, at Christmas, we hire security to protect a Christmas tree so it is certainly something we can consider,” he said.
In March The Standard did a sample poll with residents in the mall to gauge public opinion of the site for the park.
Most of those we spoke to said it would attract “undesirables” after hours.
Tolorosa Taulada said a playground in Dawson Mall was a bad idea.
“A playground here would just cause more problems - there is a lot of violence here after hours,” Ms Taulada said.
“The council will need to spend more money trying to stop it.
“Just come here after 10pm and you can see it is just a place for street kids to hang.”