Photo courtesy of https://www.facebook.com/EddiemArtproduction/
The Northern Beaches Community Safety Committee meets six times a year and advises Council on community safety and crime prevention on the Northern Beaches including the security of open spaces and public areas, lighting, transport and event safety, plus putting forward initiatives for community safety and crime reduction, and prevention and detection. A meeting was held on 18th of February 2021 in response to recent resident concerns regarding the East Esplanade precinct, and the challenges experienced in this area by Council, police and residents were discussed.
East Esplanade has been of concern since the inception of the (previous Manly Council) Community Safety Committee in 2012. A high level of activity and concerns have been noted this summer, however it is likely the increase in activity is a response to COVID-19 restrictions. With the significant increase in Council ranger patrols, statistics have shown a major increase in preventative actions. Staff experience has shown that the majority of problems has been with adults, not youth. Council has the capacity to continue this level of ranger patrol service before 8pm, Police and rangers work together to monitor the Alcohol Prohibited Area (APA) which has proven successful. The re- introduction of the reserve sprinkler system being activated after 8 pm has assisted groups to move on and will be refined to improve crowd disbursement. It is anticipated that patrons will return to licensed venues once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. This will alleviate the pressure of crowds in public spaces. Police advise crime in this area generally relates to antisocial behaviour rather than serious crime. Police met with Council representatives last week and discussed sprinkler timing and the installation of toilet location signage. Roadside fencing was also suggested to decrease access to private residences and guide crowds toward toilet facilities.
General excessive consumption of alcohol was discussed. Northern Beaches Local Drug Action Team (LDAT) and Community Drug Action Team (CDAT) are investigating further strategies to address community attitudes towards alcohol use.
A commitment at the February Safety Committee meeting was made to meet with stakeholders to discuss these and other issues. After much delay, the commitment by senior staff to meet stakeholders was finally kept and the group walked through East Esplanade. The group felt that they should have met during a busy period, however it did allow the Police Executive, the Council Executive and three Councillors to hear all the concerns, AGAIN.
The resident community representatives living in the immediate vicinity gave an excellent summary of what they are putting up with and it was clear that something must be done to stop the antisocial behaviour; the abusive response residents get when asking park users to stop using their property as a toilet; the increase in drug deals; noise from amplified music and huge numbers of party goers with no control over excessive drinking.
Ideas were discussed including a complete management of the park by Council with fenced off areas and entry management similar to the licensed premises. East Esplanade Park is the only park/reserve/beach in the Northern Beaches that legally allows drinking. However, the elephant in the room remains the push for Council to declare the trial of allowing alcohol at East Esplanade finished and reinstate the alcohol ban. It may take 6 months to affect, but we would have our park back under control for next summer. This was clearly a preferred approach by senior management at Council and uniformed police. It is the preferred approach of the majority of residents. It is not the preferred approach of the majority of Councillors. You would have to ask why? Is it an election year, Yes? Is this a political, popular decision. Maybe yes.
The Stakeholder group participation will improve Council/Community communication, but it appears to be stuck on a final solution that doesn’t involve a complete stop to alcohol allowed.