Black Hole of Pakenham
By Aneeka Simonis
OVERFLOW parking at Pakenham train station has been described as a “black hole” and several authorities have acknowledged it’s dangerous territory for commuters, especially women, who are required to walk the unlit route to their cars after dark.
Cardinia shire Mayor Jodie Owen posed the question “if you are a woman, would you get off the train at 8pm in the middle of winter” when referring to the poorly-lit and un-monitored area around the train station, and in particular the notoriously dangerous Bourke Park.
The council, supported by local police and Shadow Attorney General John Pessuto and Bass MP Brian Paynter, are pushing for CCTV cameras to be installed in the area in addition to lighting along the darkened Cook Drive path which leads to about 200 overflow car parking spaces for commuters.
If successful, the proposal will add on the $136,950 Federal Government set to “rejuvenate” Bourke Park from September this year.
Additional path lighting, an extension of the footpath at the northern section of the park, horticultural landscaping works and an activation zone to create a “family friendly” space were funded for under the grant, but it does not go far enough, according to the safety-conscious council.
“People don’t feel safe,” said Cr Owen.
Preliminary assessments have already been made on appropriate locations for CCTV cameras at the Pakenham park which has been the site of several vicious, physical attacks this year.
In one daylight incident about 15 youths used skateboards and scooters to belt an adult male to the ground at Bourke Park.
At least one bus driver has reported being assaulted.
Cardinia’s Team Leader Safe and Inclusive Communities David Lane said the council was working closely with Pakenham police to prepare an application for funding through the Victorian Government’s Public Safety Infrastructure Fund.
“Applications close in the first week of September, so we won’t know for some time whether the grant application is successful.
“Details of possible systems, including the potential location of cameras, are still being finalised,” he said, noting that the council would not comment further before the grant announcement.
Liberal Bass MP Brian Paynter, father of three daughters and a White Ribbon Ambassador, hesitated when asked if he would approve of his daughters walking through the park alone at night.
“There are times and elements that would make me hesitate to walk through here,” he said.
“I think women and girls feel more at risk. We as a community need to be conscious of men’s violence against women and that women in the community sometimes don’t feel safe going about their normal day-to-day activities.”
About 70 per cent of Cardinia shire residents travel outside of the municipality to work. Many use public transport.
Cr Owen said fixing safety at Pakenham station and surrounds is paramount to ensure “when commuters are coming home, they aren’t worrying about what they might be getting home to”.
Cr Kate Lempriere described the overflow car parking area as a “black hole”, particularly for women who are required to walk the unlit path toward their parked cars after getting off the train after dark.
Mr Pessuto put his support behind the CCTV proposal, adding neighbouring growth areas like Casey are also “feeling the pinch” as they attempt to adjust to meet demands that come with population growth.
“We need the government to invest heavily in deterrents. Words aren’t enough. We need real dollars for lighting, CCTV and, most importantly, more police,” he said. “If offenders know their likelihood of getting caught it greater, they are less likely to offend.”
Cardinia Inspector Shane Smith has made applications for more police to be deployed to Pakenham and surrounding stations.
However, if the application is successful, there is still a wait on deployment – pegged for early 2017. Crime prevention works including the installation of new playgrounds, shelters, paths, seating, lighting, toilets, barbecues and landscaping were undertaken at Bourke Park in 2014.
Recorded crime rates at the park halved since the installation of the dual council and State Government funded works. The council attributed the drop in recorded crime to increased “passive surveillance”.
Earlier this year, public drinking at the park was highlighted in Pakenham police’s crime crackdown. On-the-spot penalties for drinking in a public space in Cardinia shire result in a $200 fine or up to $2000 if the case was brought to a magistrates’ court.
Applications to upgrade Pakenham station have also been made to Minister for Public Transport Jacinta Allan’s office.