'Keep out' zones to keep drunks, troublemakers off Footscray streets

SWEEPING new powers will enable police to ban troublemakers from a vast swathe of Footscray and surrounding areas for up to a year.

The Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation (VCGLR) has declared an area in and around the Footscray CBD a "designated area", which allows police to enforce 72-hour bans from licensed premises or the entire area.

The 18-month order - introduced on Friday at the request of Footscray police — covers the area bounded by Williamstown and Geelong roads, Gordon and Barkly streets, Ballarat Road, Moore, Byron, Shelley, Hopkins, Whitehall, Napier, Buckley, Albert, Hobbs, Greig, Thomson and Gamon streets, and Station Road.

Maribyrnong police commander Tony Long said the declaration "will be an excellent tool to assist police when dealing with drunken troublemakers in Footscray. The designated area contains a large number of licensed premises be they hotels, bottle shops or cafes and restaurants".

The powers, aimed at helping address alcohol-related violence in and around licensed premises, mean police can issue bans if they reasonably suspect a person has committed offences including physical assault, property damage, drunkenness and weapons offences.

"There is a broad cross-section of offences for which we can issue banning notices," Inspector Long said. "The notices won't replace the issuing of penalty notices or charges, but they will help keep troublesome offenders away from the area."

A court order can be sought to ban repeat offenders for up to 12 months.

Inspector Long said the powers could be used during local festivals and events and would help licensees manage venues and allow for the removal of unruly patrons.

"Much of the problem with alcohol-affected people in Footscray relates to their effect on the amenity and the perception of safety in the area," he said. "The powers associated with the designated area will help police better deal with these people. They can be removed and kept away."

Designated areas have been declared in Dandenong, Frankston and entertainment hubs in the CBD.

Yarraville ward councillor and trader Grant Miles, who last year tore up his alcohol licence to help tackle the issue of problem drinking in the Footscray CBD, said there was a fine balance between civil liberties and allowing people to feel comfortable in public. "I think Footscray is a special case and needs attention, and this gives police a little more security, but I think stretching as far as it does is too big an area."

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