“Alarming issues” related to sexual assault in Jindabyne have pushed the local government to explore options to make the town feel safer for locals and tourists alike.
Councillors agreed more needed to be done to improve safety in Jindabyne at a recent Snowy Monaro Regional Council meeting.
Councillor Louise Frolich urged the council to explore grant opportunities and investigate better transport and infrastructure solutions for the town.
Cr Frolich pointed to a recent petition as inspiration for the push.
“The reason [for this motion] is in response to alarming issues the Jindabyne community has faced, not just last month, but in recent times,” she said.
“I’m asking we use council resources to apply for any available grants or funding opportunities for the purpose of lighting, transport and the like.”
The petition Cr Frolich referred to was created by Jindabyne local Taylor Holland.
She said she was spurred into action after “hearing countless stories of sexual assaults, drink spiking and women being stalked through their [mobile devices].”
“Just recently, my best friend was assaulted while walking home at night,” Ms Holland said.
“This is why I am calling on the Snowy Monaro Regional Council to make Jindabyne safe: install street lighting and provide more public transport options at night.”
She said these actions would help make the community feel safer.
“We do not want our beautiful town to be a place where women and men are too scared to walk home at night,” Ms Holland said.
“The community is fed up with feeling unsafe.”
Mayor Narelle Davis said it was important for the voices of local community service providers to be added to the conversation.
“The past two years of COVID have probably not supported those [providers] well and we need to re-ignite those processes,” she said.
“There are so many opportunities in regards [to improving community safety] … there’s lots actively happening behind the scenes to support a safe community program in Jindabyne.”
Council’s manager of community services has begun organising a meeting of key stakeholders to discuss community safety, including police, the Liquor Accord, resorts and community support groups and services.
The meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, 5 July.
Data showed sexual assault rates in the Snowy Monaro were, at times, twice as high as the NSW average, with monthly fluctuations.
A spokesperson from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) said this could suggest a “seasonal trend”.
“The spikes, particularly during the Christmas period, as well as the school holidays, are possibly attributed to an increase in individuals present in the area,” they said.
“The exception to this seasonality is the two lockdown periods (March – May 2020 and July – October 2021) where we see a drop in the rate of sexual assault.”
The rate of sexual assault in the Snowy Monaro in the year to March 2022 was 104.8, higher than NSW’s rate of 85.9. Both the region and the state saw an increase in the rate from 2020.
While sexual assaults have remained stable in NSW over the past three years, the trend was more difficult to track for the Snowy Monaro as there were too few observations to calculate one reliably.
However, the BOCSAR spokesperson said numbers appeared to remain “fairly stable”.
Extra police were deployed to the Snowy Monaro region as part of Operation Snow Safe, targeting road safety, anti-social behaviour and personal safety.
A NSW Police spokesperson said officers conducted regular patrols of licenced venues and, in particular, took sexual assault reports “very seriously”.
“No matter the season, police want people to go out and enjoy themselves at our licenced premises but end the night on the right terms,” they said.
“Those who commit serious offences such as assault, get caught supplying drugs in a licenced venue or spike another patron’s drinks can expect to be charged.
“Police will simply not tolerate any anti-social behaviour – the safety of the community is our number one priority.”
Region asked if police knew about the assault mentioned in Ms Holland’s petition but did not receive an answer. It was not clear if Ms Holland’s friend reported the alleged assault.
Sexual assault remained one of the most under-reported crimes in NSW.
Anyone who believes they may be the victim of a crime has been urged to contact their local police station to make a report.
Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.