Violence, drugs and dodgy deals in the West End
ONGOING anti-social behaviour at the Fremantle Beach Backpackers in the historic West End boiled over last Friday night (January 11) when a woman pushed a man out a top-floor window.
Local Shane Braddock and his partner Julie Morgan looked on in horror as the man clung onto the window ledge for his life. The woman then slammed the window shut on the man’s head and he fell about four metres onto a first-floor roof.
Mr Braddock, who lives next door to the High Street hostel, called the police and hung around to see what happened.
“She said the man had punched her and she has scratch marks on her arms,” Mr Braddock told the Herald.
“He then took off down Henry Street toward the Esplanade Park.
“From the argument I heard, and from talking to her afterwards, they were both high/drunk.
“When the police arrived she said that she wasn’t interested in laying charges and when he called her on her mobile, while she was talking to the police, he said he wouldn’t take it further.
“Yet once again we have to deal with violence at the backpackers. This time a girl was physically assaulted. What’s it going to take?”
Nearby business owners and inner-city residents have lodged numerous complaints with police and Fremantle council about violence, noise and drugs at the backpackers since it opened in late 2015.
A crisis meeting was held with WA police, Fremantle council, and local business owners and residents on Thursday (January 17), and the Chook understands a community circle WhatsApp group is to coordinate reports of anti-social behaviour.
Mr Braddock said it was not uncommon to see people taking and selling drugs in broad daylight at the High-Henry Street intersection outside, and there was a stream of homeless people popping in and out of the backpackers on Henry Street, which operates upstairs in the old Orient Hotel, but has no connection with Bar Orient below.
“It [the backpackers] has become a bit of a mecca, and because it’s one of the cheapest, shelters are using it for crisis accommodation when they’re full.”
Mr Braddock, his wife and four kids have lived in an adjacent property for about six years. He says the problems only started after the backpackers opened.
“We actually welcomed it opening as we thought it would bring people into the West End during the summer months when the uni was shut,” he says.
“But it wasn’t long before people were defecating in the laneway behind our house and we found a crack pipe there.
“People were using the fire escape at the rear of the backpackers to get on the first-floor roof and climbing through the windows. I’d find strangers in my garden at all hours.”
Bongs on the balcony
The backpackers is located in a heritage-listed building recently purchased by Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, and Mr Braddock says he plans to email the mining magnate to alert him about the issues.
Psychologist Duane Smith is a partner in a practice directly across the street from the backpacker’s balcony.
He says for the past year he’s seen people using bongs on the balcony and people “off their trolley” yelling, screaming and sometimes fighting.
“This isn’t just young people having fun; this is real anti-social behaviour,” he says.
“Some of my patients have got anxiety conditions and the last thing they want is to look out the reception window and see this kind of thing.
“There are wider problems with homelessness and drug use in Fremantle, so we shouldn’t stigmatise, but this is something else and it needs to be addressed.”
A nearby business owner who wished to remain anonymous said other hostels in Fremantle like Sundancer in High St and The Old Fire Station Backpackers in Phillimore St had outdoor areas where young travellers could blow off steam, but said they were “caged in” on the first floor at The Beach Backpackers.
A WA police spokesperson said “Fremantle Police are actively engaged with the City of Fremantle, businesses and local residents regarding anti-social behaviour and drug activity emanating from a particular business within the West End of the Fremantle CBD.
“Police encourage anyone concerned with or experiencing any issues, to report them to police and the City of Fremantle to allow a true picture of what is happening be created.
“Police and representatives from the City of Fremantle are planning to meet with concerned residents in the near future.”
The Chook contacted the Fremantle Beach Backpackers with questions, but nobody got back to us.