Home > Uncategorized > But isn’t it dangerous living here?

But isn’t it dangerous living here?

No it’s not.

Rather than start with the headline grabbing “murder capital of Australia”, let’s start with the official statistics, issued quarterly by the NT Justice Department. Latest stats are from the December 2009 quarter.

If you like reading numbers in tables, then the figures for Alice Springs are on page 45 of Issue 30. To put those figures into a visual context, page 46.

Big thing to remember is that a lot of crime here (? most) is alcohol-fuelled black on black and often occurs within the town camps.

Next thing to remember is that a lot of the assaults against white locals or tourists happens very late at night or in the early hours of the morning as drunken revellers stagger their way home or back to their hotel/hostel. Not much different to life in other towns or cities in Australia.

I don’t know the stats for white on black crime but given how shaken up much of the town seemed by the recent court case & sentencing over the five men who killed an Aboriginal man, I’d say it’s not common. Certainly, I was one of those shocked by the death & the crime.

Of course, much is made in our local media about the “social problems” that exist in our town. No point in denying the existence of the problem, it’s there & can be quite unpleasant to see. But what is the impact upon me, a white woman, living & working in the town?

I feel safe walking, cycling & driving alone around town at most times of day and evenings. Personal safety is not something I need to dwell on, as long as I exercise common sense. Is that different to where you live?

I do get frustrated with the level of litter, the broken glass, the empty cans  & general rubbish one sees in the (usually dry) Todd river bed & along the streets of the CBD. Then there are the patches of vomit, used condoms & other bodily excretions left in and around the shrubs & garden beds of the Mall area & other shopping precincts.

Council cleans up a lot of the street rubbish, hoses down the footpaths & Mall, but only occasionally tackles the river bed. This is not to say the river bed is awash with cans & other litter, it’s not. But there are patches, a modern day version of a midden.

As Anne commented on a previous post, “People apply safety using a pretty simple economic model: cost of safety versus risk of damage.” I’d not thought of it that way before but it is so true.

My neighbourhood is quite safe, very few gates or security fences. (And yes, there’s even a town camp nearby.)

In other areas you do see a higher level of security. In my area the greatest threat seems to come from the drunken teenage antics of graduating year 12 students as they celebrate: to date I’ve only seen a couple of drunken brawls & a bit of yelling in the street. On odd occasions there have been domestic fights (verbal plus door slamming & car roaring off) and recently we had a few cars broken into (but not mine).

I have a friend who lives on the other side of town near a housing trust area. She has had occasions to call the police due public disturbances which have, in fairness, sounded quite frightening to deal with late at night. There are regular private security patrols in her area around the clock she says. In contrast, it’s rare to see a police car in my street.

What do I do to avoid the unsafe aspects of Alice?

Well, I don’t go out walking the streets late at night (midnight onwards)(okay, more like 10pm onwards). I’m not a drinker or nightclub person so I don’t get to see what happens when Bo’s closes for the night & turfs out the drinkers etc.

I do go out for dinner, but I either drive, arrange to go in a friend’s car or take a taxi. This is exactly what I do when I’m in Adelaide, Brisbane or most other large “small” towns.

I am careful about where I park my car in town. This is based on watching where the current break-ins are occurring. And I’m always careful not to leave valuables in sight. Makes sense. I did this in Brisbane when I lived there.

I try to avoid doing my shopping after the 2pm opening of the liquor stores. It is worth seeing just what happens from about 1pm onwards, if only to be appalled by the sheer amount of grog being trundled out of the bottle shops by both whites and blacks.

I never go to Coles after dark. Even if they do have adequate security guard numbers on duty. It just isn’t pleasant. Large groups of often drunk hang around the entrance & throughout the Coles Complex carparks. I go to Woolies. Or I wait until the next day.

I would never walk by the Todd too late at night, not even to access the casino area.

Daytime is fine. The Todd Mall is safe & pleasant (generally) during the daytime in my experience.

Just walk around any groups drinking/drunk in public (usually sitting on the grass around the church or the carparks). A lot of the noise & shouting amongst the throngs won’t be directed at you. You’ll see such groups having arguments in public, but it’s not all the time, it’s not always a daily occurrence. (If you work in the Mall, undoubtedly you see more. I don’t.)

I am wary of the groups of indigenous youth you see wandering around town. They appear to be bored, occasionally they’re under the influence of illegal substances and therefore pose a (slightly) greater risk to me as a woman, let alone a white woman.

Occasionally you’ll be yelled at in the street or the supermarket and called a “white cunt” or something similar. The person is drunk. Ignore them. Security will move them on. It hasn’t happened to me for many, many months. It’s not a regular thing. But then, perhaps that’s because I’m rarely in town shopping after 2pm.

Finally, my measure of the safety of a town is my inclination to move on. The social problems are not yet enough to make me feel that I “must leave” town yet. And when I do finally leave, it’ll be because it’s simply time to move back “home”, by the water.

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