Fear stalks streets for residents

RESIDENTS scared to walk around their own suburb have called for better facilities and more youth-oriented activities to help make Shellharbour City's streets safer.

This follows a council-commissioned survey indicating crime prevention and reduction (9.4 per cent) was residents' main current issue of concern, followed by youth services and jobs for youth (8.4 per cent).

In March, IRIS Research conducted the 2012 Community Survey.

A total of 501 interviews were conducted with randomly selected residents of the Shellharbour LGA.

Previous surveys were conducted in 1997, 2004, 2007 and 2010.

Crime prevention appeared in the top issue in each survey period.

However, perceptions of safety varied considerably between different parts of the LGA.

Those in the north-east (Barrack Heights, Barrack Point, Lake Illawarra, Mt Warrigal and Warilla) and central suburbs (Blackbutt, Oak Flats and Shellharbour City Centre) reported they felt less safe, particularly at night, as well as being less likely to feel safer than they did three years ago.

Toni Higgins, a long-time Oak Flats resident and shop owner, said it was a close-knit community.

However, she said issues such as inadequate lighting were a problem.

"During the day it's fine, but it's a different story at night," she said.

"There's some bad spots. I feel less safe than a few years ago.

"I find since having the new police station, we have a lot of outsiders coming into our community.

"They come here to the main street, lurking around until the next train.

"I've put cameras in my shop - had a few scares.

"A few elderly people have been knocked over by kids on skateboards and bicycles."

Bob Jago, a long-time Oak Flats resident now living in Blackbutt, said there were safety issues in the area.

"There's nothing around here for young kids to do, so they're getting into trouble," Mr Jago said.

"My wife wouldn't go out after dark by herself and I think there's a lot of women who feel the same."

Long-time Oak Flats resident Judith Wattus said she wouldn't go out at night by herself, but felt safer now than a few years ago, partially due to increased police presence.

A council spokesperson said council had adopted a Crime Prevention Plan in April, which addressed a number of issues raised by the survey.

"Council is now engaging in its second Community Strategic Plan to further inform future initiatives that council will undertake," the spokesperson said.

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