Cafe owner rattled

Sickening assault has her ready to sell up

A FREMANTLE cafe owner who was chased around a car by a drunk man wielding a bourbon bottle as a weapon says she’s fed up and on the brink of joining the exodus of businesses from the city.

Jess told the Herald she’d just returned from a quick trip to Coles when a homeless woman recognised her and called out. The woman was drunk and distressed so Jess took her to a park across the road from her cafe to comfort her.

“A few minutes later her boyfriend walked around the park and came up from behind and he was carrying this two-litre bottle of bourbon,” Jess said.

“He was screaming at her while she was still sitting on the ground, then he just brought the bottle down and started smashing her face with it.”

Jess fled across the road, but suddenly found herself in dire trouble when the drunk man turned his attention to her.

“I hid behind a four-wheel-drive, but he was just circling around it threatening me with the bottle.”

Stitches

Jess says when the man’s attention was diverted by his partner’s agonised cries, she took the opportunity to flee again and took refuge with a family.

The man was then restrained by transit guards who’d witnessed the scene and held until police arrived and arrested him. The woman was taken to hospital in an ambulance with severe facial injuries that required multiple stitches.

Jess says anti-social behaviour has become an all-too familiar story in Fremantle and is taking a huge toll on business owners. She reckons it’s a contributor to the two empty shops on either side of hers.

“I’ve got another friend, she’s got a business around the corner, she can’t afford to move, but she’s actually developed severe anxiety – because she’s all alone – from all the stuff that happens around her.

“There was one time I was there and we had to close the doors and put an umbrella thing through because there was a lady off her head trying to get in.”

Jess says her customers get screamed at from people across the park who are either high on drugs or drunk.

Walking to her cafe, the Herald was approached by a trio trying to cadge a cigarette, while at the same time another visitor was being asked for loose change as he tried to cross the road.

Jess says that in itself is a real put-off for potential customers.

“I feel like there’s more presence of homeless people and drug addicts and I hear a lot more than ever before people saying that they don’t come into Fremantle because they don’t feel safe.”

Jess says after nine years running her business in Fremantle’s, she’s been looking for somewhere in the suburbs for a new and safer opportunity so she can sell up and move out of the CBD.

Freo Now chair Karl Bullers is in a difficult position.

He’s loathe to further highlight anti-social problems in the city after recent media reports in case it deters more visitors. Police statistics also show crime in the port city is falling.

But Mr Bullers also has to represent members like Jess who are doing it tough and can do without the additional stress.

Freo Now recently wrote to police commissioner Chris Dawson seeking a meeting to talk about police numbers.

Mr Bullers says he’s getting feedback from shop owners that they’re seeing fewer police on the beat, which he believes is in response to the falling crime stats.

But he says those can be misleading, as many shop owners no longer report minor crimes because they don’t see any action.

Jess can attest to that; a few months ago one of her staff went to the Woolstores Shopping Centre for some supplies and was punched in the face by a complete stranger, leaving her with a fat lip and sore nose. They reported the incident to the police, including a description of the assailant, but Jess says she was stunned to be told they were too busy to attend.

Since then she’s often not bothered to report things: “Otherwise I’d be doing it every day,” she said.

But Mr Bullers says all crime should be reported, with a mobile phone app developed by Freo Now proving successful in helping shopkeepers keep each other informed about trouble before it arrives as well as notifying police.

He says if the stats go up, it’ll encourage the commissioner to allocate more resources to Fremantle.

by STEVE GRANT

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