Double stabbing at Ballarat taxi rank but 'city still safe'

COMMUNITY leaders and business operators say Ballarat’s streets are safer than they have been for years, despite a double stabbing in the CBD yesterday morning.

Two 19-year-old Ballarat men were rushed to hospital just after 5am after they were allegedly stabbed by a Burnside man during a fight at the taxi rank at the corner of Lydiard and Sturt streets.

One was released from Ballarat Health Services Base Hospital yesterday with stitches in his neck and the other underwent surgery at The Royal Melbourne Hospital with stab wounds to his back.

He was in a serious but stable condition.

Police have charged a 25-year-old man with a series of offences, including affray and intentionally causing serious injury.

Despite the violent incident, business leaders say the city’s streets are now much safer than they used to be.

Regent Cinemas owner Steve Anderson last year said Saturday nights were a haven for violence and property damage but now they had been cleaned up.

“We normally don’t see anywhere near as much violence. Seeing police have a visible presence walking around is definitely making a difference,” he said.

JD’s Sports Bar owner Jason Yean agreed.

Mr Yean said the last three or four months in particular had been incident-free until yesterday’s stabbing.

“It’s the safest I’ve seen it for ages until this happened,” he said.

Ballarat City Council has invested heavily in CCTV cameras in the late-night entertainment precinct and there has also been increased police presence through blitzes and on regular weekends.

There were also two security guards stationed at the taxi rank at the time.

Ballarat mayor John Burt said there was never going to be a perfect solution but Ballarat was still a safe place to live.

“Overall I think we’re doing pretty well at the moment,” said Cr Burt.

“It’s a high priority and we need to work with the police and relevant authorities to keep the good work up.”

CitySafe chairman and City of Ballarat south ward councillor Des Hudson said yesterday’s alleged stabbing was an “isolated incident” in what were otherwise safe streets.

He said Ballarat was very much a safe place to go late at night but there needed to be some onus put back on patrons to ensure they behaved.

Ballarat Taxis chairman Stephen Armstrong said the taxi rank was generally safe but said people needed to be patient, especially on Saturday nights at this time of year.

The accused Burnside man was bailed to face the Ballarat Magistrates Court today.