Over the next 30 days, Wollongong City Council and Transport for NSW are allowing people to tell them more about how safe they feel on the streets.
The consultation, which focuses on Wollongong CBD, Dapto and Port Kembla town centres, was only launched on Monday, April 3. Still, already the maps are littered with pink pins from women outlining the places they feel least safe. There's no surprise that car parks feature heavily.
The council's car park on Stewart Street is described simply as 'Isolated and scary at night" by one resident.
"Pitch black car park. Unsafe," another says about the George Street car park.
There are 13 hot spots around Burelli Street, 21 around the west end of Crown Street, including 10 for the Piccadilly Centre alone. The feelings of fear line up with a survey conducted in Germany where "the most frequently cited reason for girls and women feeling unsafe is frightening people, especially people who use drugs or alcohol in public".
"Doesn't matter if it is day or night, this area is of major concern and pathways to train station are also impacted by the people who hang around in this area. I, like many, avoid this area of town from previous negative experiences and do not access (the) station from Crown St pathways from past negative experience," one resident summed up.
When women feel unsafe in many of our city's car parks and on the main shopping thoroughfares of the CBD, there is a major problem. How can we have a vibrant, thriving city centre economy if 50 per cent of our population is too scared to park their cars?
It is refreshing to see the issue being addressed.
But it will take a lot more than more lighting and more CCTV. Similar programmes in the UK have shown the need for education campaigns alongside physical changes.
The Safer Streets Liverpool programme provides frontline transport staff with 'bystander training' to help prevent violence. Mobile police units are used in hot spot areas at the times when women feel most unsafe.
It'll be interesting to see what suggestions come out of the Illawarra survey. Let's hope they work.
- Gayle Tomlinson
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