THE assault of a school student with a disability in Hargreaves Mall on Monday has again raised concerns about the problematic behaviour of some who frequent the area.
One woman who worked in the mall told the Bendigo Advertiser she regularly saw what she believed were drug deals occurring every week, and was often approached by people requesting money and cigarettes.
She is among several people working in the mall who say there has been little improvement in antisocial behaviour since a renewed push to address the issue was made five months ago.
“It gets a bit intimidating,” the woman said.
“It’s just not a nice place.”
One of her colleagues added that there were “always altercations out there, unruly behaviour”.
He said people displaying unpleasant behaviour tended to congregate at the bus stop at the Mitchell Street end of the mall – where the student was assaulted – and called for a more permanent security presence.
While two young women walking in the mall on Tuesday said they had experienced no problems, James Smith, a store manager, said there was still a “constant, daily issue”.
“There’s definitely been an increased presence of law enforcement, but in our opinion it hasn’t been enough of a deterrent to keep the issues away,” Mr Smith said.
He said more needed to be done within the community to address the root causes.
Acting Senior Sergeant Damian Keegan from Bendigo police said measures put in place several months to cut crime and antisocial behaviour were ongoing.
He said police tried to attend the mall every day and continued to liaise with other agencies, including Anglicare, the Department of Health and Human Services and the City of Greater Bendigo, to address the issue.
Acting Senior Sergeant Keegan said individuals’ disengagement from education and other services was a main driver of the issue, so linking them back into school and support services was a focus of their work.
He said their work had been promising so far, with a number of the people who had previously caused problems in the mall now back at school or alternative education.
Kalianna School principal Peter Bush said the student attacked in the mall on Monday had received stitches to his jaw and was recovering at home before he hopefully returned to school this week, although his confidence had been shaken by the incident.