A COMMUNITY meeting in White Gum Valley on Tuesday night heard ice addicts are such a problem parents are scared of letting their kids play in parks and others are moving out.
About 100 gathered at the local primary school at short notice to meet with the local policing team and representatives from Fremantle council.
Most had multiple stories to tell of houses and cars being broken into, of being confronted by addicts or of finding used needles in yards and playgrounds.
One complained his 11-year-old daughter and her friend had been stalked by a pervert while riding their bikes. He urged everyone to report everything suspicious: his wife later tracked the car down and called the police, who’d implied it wasn’t the first complaint they’d had about the driver. What action was taken is unknown.
“Yesterday I found a needle in the the front yard, so I had to ban the kids from playing without their shoes,” one young mother said.
“Then we were approached by a guy, and this is right in front of our kids, and he said that he’d just been injected with something up the street and he was worried that it was something really bad.”
She said while walking her kids to school, she used to find the occasional empty “baggie” used by addicts, but it was now daily.
Another said she’d found three used syringes in Valley Park last week, which she’d collected and stored in a jar. They’d been missed by a council crew which had just done its weekly clean-up.
A Samson Street resident, who lives near a well-known drug den, told the Herald she’d twice had people jumping into her backyard to case her house—while she was inside.
The same thing had happened to her tenants, who live in front of her, and they’d threatened to move out, relenting when she agreed to let them purchase a guard dog.
“The people at the back had someone break into their house who stole things while they were at home, and they even came back the next day and were flicking the light on and off until they came out,” she said.
Unusually for such a meeting, the local police team was praised for its efforts.
Police regularly stake out the drug dens — their locations are an open secret — and search cars that pull up. Police do what they can within the law and their guidelines to make life as difficult as they can for the dealers and their clients.
But Sgt Nathan Trenberth says they’ve not been able to score a big conviction that puts the pushers out of business: the lure of amphetamines is so strong that a minor conviction for possession isn’t enough to stop them coming back.
There was a strong desire from the residents to work together to combat the problem, and a suggestion from local precinct co-convenor Mark Woodcock to resurrect Neighbourhood Watch and the Safe Houses program received a round of applause.
Cr Ingrid Waltham, who helped organise the meeting, told the Herald that by the next morning, meetings had already been set up with the school P&C and she’s hopeful Safe Houses will be up and running soon.
Despite the litany of problems outlined at the meeting, she says she was heartened by the community wanting to pull together and devising realistic expectations. The meeting itself had drawn out neighbours she didn’t know, and like many others she got the opportunity to get to know them while walking home.
Cr Dave Coggin told the meeting the council will lobby Telstra to shift a phone box from the deli, which residents say is being used to organise drug deals.
It will also investigate the feasibility of suburban security patrols, although mayor Brad Pettitt told those near him the general consensus from councils that have patrols is they’re popular but ineffective.
In response to criticism that overgrown verges, scruffy council-owned sumps and sloppy maintenance in the parks are contributing to the problem, Cr Coggin says he’ll ask council managers to do better.
Parks staff will be urged to be particularly vigilant about looking for needles.
by STEVE GRANT