Creative design improves safety for council precinct in south-east Melbourne
5 council properties and 1 public open space in south-east East Melbourne are our focus for this case study – part of a series of case studies across the industries we specialise in – looking at what the security challenge was, and how we solved it.
Drug activity, rough sleepers and violence posed a risk to Council staff and local residents within a community and recreational precinct. Here’s a snapshot of what we found.
The precinct is a unique location in Melbourne because of the prevalence of public housing and social services within the one area. While the precinct attracts locals, it also brings in residents from other areas of the shire who make use of the free or subsidized services available there.
Staff at various times may have to deal with people who could be drug or alcohol affected, itinerant, have mental health issues and those people that are just having bad days. Council buildings are mostly public buildings and people do have an expectation that they can enter them with little or no restriction.
As the precinct is not secured at any time during the day or night, the focus was on improving safety, making it more attractive to the many residents who were reluctant to use it.
We were engaged by the local council to undertake a precinct-wide review of their community and recreational hub.
The review took into account the properties construction and general layout, its location and the immediate neighbourhood, recent incidents, the possible exposure levels to future incidents, and the consequences associated with these incidents.
A large part of the strategy was to discourage and displace behaviour such as drug activity that occurred regularly. Drug users often selected sheltered, discrete areas to use. That meant that the problems would not be solved by traditional security measures such as CCTV.
It was apparent that the real risk of loss was associated with the Council staff and members of the public who frequent the locations. Our primary concern was assaults and the potential for incidents to escalate.
To manage this risk, the Council not only needed to ensure that everything that was deemed reasonable was being done, but that any formal processes were properly documented. A lack of documentation suggests a lack of formal process, which in turn can lead to a lack of understanding of what the expectations truly are.
The first recommendation for staff to be trained to deal with aggressive patrons. With a demonstrated history of aggressive patrons, Council needed to be able to demonstrate that its staff are prepared to work in an environment that can be hostile. If not all staff are expected to manage these events, then there needs to be a documented escalation process where senior team members take responsibility for issue resolution.
Duress systems also featured heavily in the recommendations.
Beyond people, process and technology, creative thinking and design work was also needed. The most frequented locations were fully enclosed with wire screening so they were no longer available for illicit drug activity.
Pathways that were previously too narrow, dark and heavily impacted by trees and shrubs were remodelled. Trees were removed or trimmed, paths widened, and lighting significantly improved.
We also made recommendations to change street furniture placement, so that people were less likely to congregate in areas where they could not be easily observed.