More police on the beat: traders call for action at Elizabeth St trouble spot

More police on the beat: traders call for action at Elizabeth St trouble spot
Brendan Rees

Frustrated traders have made an impassioned plea for police to address concerns of unruly behaviour and the prevalence of rough sleepers at the southern end of Elizabeth St.

Their call for action was voiced during a symposium hosted by Victoria Police on February 28, which, alongside business owners, the City of Melbourne, and other stakeholders, brought the community together to discuss potential solutions to the ongoing issues at the troubled-prone intersection including illegitimate begging.

Victoria Police has identified the area a “priority policing location” due to concerns of safety and security at the intersection, which acts as a gateway to the CBD and a connection point to Southbank from Flinders Street Station.

It follows a roundtable hosted by the City of Melbourne in January which brought together the Victorian Government, Police and other key representatives to find solutions.

The symposium’s chair, Melbourne East Local Area Commander Inspector Dale Huntington, acknowledged the concerns raised by traders and assured them that the police were taking all steps to address the situation.

“The bottom end of Elizabeth St has been a target of ours. You’ll see a mobile police facility being parked there on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights,” he said.

“We’re making sure we get a high visible policing presence … and we’re going to try and increase that as well.”

Among the various traders to address the room, which was hosted at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel on Flinders St, was a pharmacy owner who said they had experienced incidents daily.

They expressed concern that people on the street and youth offenders “have worked out that the police are not coming” – a sentiment shared by many at the symposium.


“My staff are frustrated because they call triple-0 [and] they get referred to East Melbourne police … I get attacked by kids spraying deodorant into my face, throwing stuff through the pharmacy. Police are not attending,” they said.


A Woolworths manager said they had regular instances of theft but felt “there’s nothing happening” to prevent it.

Many traders said they wanted to see a stronger police presence to help deter crime and improve the overall amenity of the area.

This included one attendee who said a “major concern” was that “Elizabeth St has been neglected” and believed a “cost-effective focus on [crime] prevention” was needed.

“We need to have feet on the ground, police walking around the area, interacting with people that are loitering and obviously going to cause issues,” she said.

“I believe mitigation is not as good as prevention. Prevention means having people [police] there, so people know this is not an area you mess around with.”

Insp Huntington vowed to work closely with traders and other stakeholders to find long-term solutions to the issues facing the southern end of Elizabeth St, saying together they can make it safer and welcoming for everyone.



He said officers would prioritise addressing serious and violent crime, particularly targeting youth offenders, as well as reducing property damage, burglaries, theft and theft of motor vehicle and shop steal, and tackling e-scooter and bike offences.

He said Operation Brightside was also targeting beggars and aggressive behaviour, which he understood was likely to be the “number one problem” for traders at the southern end of Elizabeth St and Flinders St.

“[It’s about] using move on powers, directions, intervene anti-social behaviours and we get in before it escalates – not waiting till we have punch ons,” he said.

“We’re also making positive engagement with the homeless. These are people not causing us issue. We have a good protocol which is our proactive police, the City of Melbourne, the Salvation Army, and outreach workers making sure those roughing it on the streets get appropriate accommodation and the services they require.”

Inspector Huntington added, “We can only do so much and that’s why we’re here today to make sure what we can do, we can do together.”

He also told the symposium that public drunkenness was no longer a criminal offence and wanted to know if this could be handled and addressed better.

The City of Melbourne’s city safety, security, and amenity manager Dean Robertson said the council would soon launch an environmental and design review to assess anti-social behaviours around Elizabeth St, which would also seek community and business input. 

“We are all in this together – we’ve got to do something about this end of town,” he said. 

He said the council was also “stepping up efforts” to address illegitimate begging, noting around 90 per cent had housing.  

In other measures, Mr Roberston said a new city cleaning contract would start in April, which would provide services for the entire municipality 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This will include street cleaning, ancillary services, graffiti management and pressure washing services.  

Mr Robertson said the council recently identified a high-volume tag, which was removed more than 1000 times in 2023 at a cost of about $30,000.  

Working with Victoria Police and using the safe city camera program, the alleged offender was identified, leading to an arrest on November 15, 2023.  

The matter is being investigated with Victoria Police seeking penalties including that the alleged offender pays the City of Melbourne for the cost of removing the graffiti. 

Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle, who leads Salvos Melbourne Project 614, said he acknowledged “a police response is not going to fix every issue, we need to be working corroboratively – I think that’s absolute key”.

“It’s a dynamic environment, we need to be doing more. There is stuff we can do to fix problems in the here and now, but there’s deeper issues than that,” he said.

“I wonder if there are kids coming in from outer suburbs and we need to be doing something with those kids in situ, in their environment back in the suburbs, rather than it landing on the shoulders of the Inspector of Melbourne East.”


Caption: Members of the community and business owners at the Victoria Police symposium.

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