A short documentary history of the Block in Redfern
Material from the Gary Foley Collection

Redfern crime slashed, New York style

Ardyn Bernoth and Nick Papadopolous
Sydney Morning Herald
17th April 1997

A New York-style "zero tolerance" blitz by police in Redfern has caused crime in the area to plummet, the State Government announced in Parliament yesterday.

In a two-month crackdown launched by the Police Commissioner, Mr Ryan, robberies in Redfern's most notorious streets have dropped by 52 per cent while the number of assaults has dropped by 22 per cent. The Minister for Police, Mr Whelan, said while there was still a lot to be done to eradicate crime, progress had been made in returning law and order to the Redfern area.

Mr Whelan said stealing from people had decreased by 61 per cent, break and enter offences had dropped by 18 per cent and drug detection had increased by 28 per cent.

The head of the Aboriginal Housing Company at Redfern, Mr Mick Mundine , last night praised Mr Ryan for being the first police commissioner "to have the guts and take a stand" to rid Redfern of its criminal element. "There is still some crime around here but it's not as bad as it was before," he said.

"There are still some bag snatches and there are still some robberies going on. The drug scene is also still there."

Mr Mundine said the falling crime rate was due to increased police visibility and closer co-operation with the local community.

He said a police van, stationed 24 hours a day near Redfern railway station, and more foot patrols had "cut down a lot of the problems" in the area, though it had not eliminated crime entirely.

The manager of the Redfern Aboriginal Legal Centre, Mr Trevor Christian , agreed that increased police patrols had resulted in a decrease in crime. "It certainly has quietened down, particularly over the past six weeks," he said. "The police are always around ... I see them patrolling every time I go home."

The Government, the police and Aboriginal leaders held a crisis meeting in late January in an attempt to find ways to control the dramatic growth of crime in Redfern.

Thirteen extra police - including five Aboriginal officers - six probationary constables and more foot patrols were mobilised in a controversial attack on crime modelled on aggressive New York policing methods.

Mr Whelan said then that "zero tolerance" - an attack on the most minor crimes - was "appropriate" in some circumstances.

The crackdown was sparked by an outbreak of crime early this year. In the first 22 days of 1997, police recorded 140 incidents, ranging from armed hold-ups, drug dealing, assault and bag snatching to other minor street offences.

Mr Whelan told Parliament yesterday the Government would continue to explore ways of preventing crime and improving public safety in Redfern.

"Unlawful activity - whether it be in Redfern or any other suburb - cannot be tolerated," Mr Whelan said.

The Carr Government promised in 1995 to rid Sydney of gangs and along with Mr Ryan has made several proposals, including surveillance cameras and putting more police on the beat.