A SERIES of alarming events on the weekend will no doubt sufficiently shock the Ballarat community into a new sense of dread that the streets are not safe. But despite the bloody grimness of at least one incident on the weekend, it should not prevent the community from taking a measured pause and a sober review of the safety issues that the growing city faces.
In one incident a taxi driver was allegedly accosted by an armed person demanding cash and then in the early hours of Sunday morning a brawl at the Lydiard Street taxi rank resulted in two men being hospitalised with knife wounds.
The police are to be commended on the speed with which they reacted to the later incident and have subsequently arrested and charged a Melbourne man. It must also be noted that the Liquor Accord constructed between late-night venue operators and the police has been largely successful in preventing the worst excesses that have hit similar late night strips in other regional towns. Significant steps such as the wider use of CCTV and security guards at the cab rank along with regular presence of police patrols are all major factors in largely keeping violent incidents to a minimum.
For those who do not venture out at this time of night, behaviour may be ugly but it is not often as extreme as the weekend. This is a festive time of year and people will inevitably push the boat out further than normal but they should be able to do so responsibly and without waking up in hospital.
However, the weekend shows it would be complacent not to be constantly vigilant of the factors which give rise to violent incidents, however rare. The heavy consumption of alcohol is one but certainly not the sole cause. The taxi rank itself has long been a point of discussion and it could be argued that long delays for boozy revelers trying to get home is an invitation to trouble.
Considerably more worrying is the increasing occurrence of young people carrying weapons. Whether it is from some misplaced sense of protection or an even more deluded sense of power, this is a practice that has been roundly condemned by the police and needs to be further inculcated into young people as a folly sure to lead to tragedy.
Ballarat is still largely a safe place but there is work to do to keep it that way.