Church to tackle Crown St Mall problem

Wesley Church in Crown Street Mall.

Wesley Church in Crown Street Mall.

The "antisocial" regulars of Crown Street Mall will be hidden away inside the Wesley Church under a plan to spruce up the CBD area.

City business owners were told of the plan on Tuesday night at a city business forum. It involves encouraging troublesome users of the mall to have tea or coffee inside Wesley Church instead of loitering on seats in the main mall thoroughfare.

"Over the past 12 months, we've been getting quite a bit of negative feedback on the antisocial behaviour in the mall," city centre operations co-ordinator Angela Perkovic said. "We recognise everybody has a space in the public arena, but it was about how we can find a safe environment for people who display antisocial behaviour."

The scheme, designed by a working group of police, council, security, methadone and health clinics, Wesley Church and the GPT group, officially began a six-month trial on August 4.

The mall patrons targeted, referred to as "the antisocial element" at Tuesday's meeting, will be encouraged to use the church as a meeting point between 9am and 11am on weekdays.

Refreshments will be provided, as well as help with referrals to health or social services.

The council has provided financial support to the scheme, and will approach businesses to donate food to the morning tea.

"There were concerns about physical abuse but the main concern was abusive language. From a council perspective, we can't tolerate that in a public space," said council co-ordinator for partnerships and safety Armando Reviglio.

A representative of Wesley Church, however, said the plan might strain the church's already tight resources.

"That group were predominantly not clients who came to us before," the spokesperson said.

"The group would know our program, but what we're offering is not what they want. You could count on one hand the troublemakers, the others are just having a smoke and a coffee.

"I don't think the plan will achieve the goals council were looking for."

In December 2013, a "Move the junkies out of the Wollongong Mall & CBD" Facebook page - since deleted - gained notoriety and at least 1000 supporters, sharing videos, photos and stories of alleged antisocial behaviour in the city.

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