Support ramps up for City Safe petition

PUSH: Star Devine and her team have garnered over 800 signatures in a petition for Port Augusta City Council to reinstate the City Safe Program.
PUSH: Star Devine and her team have garnered over 800 signatures in a petition for Port Augusta City Council to reinstate the City Safe Program.

A petition to reinstate the former City Safe program is gaining traction as over 800 people in just three days have rushed to ink their names.

The popular City Safe program came to an end in September after years of council-based funding.

A spike in crime and anti-social behaviour has prompted Star Devine and her small team to take action.

"We all knew this would happen once the contract expired. We knew it would get out of control," she said.

"Everyone who has signed has said they don't care who funds it, they just want it back. They are screaming to have it back."

An increase in police presence has seen some of the behaviour curbed, with members of SAPOL's bike patrol covering anywhere from 15 to 40 kilometres per shift.

But Ms Devine said SAPOL is no substitute for the City Safe program, which was run by Tony Edmonds for 10-years.

"I've said all along that SAPOL is law and order, City Safe were contracted by the council to enforce the council by-laws," she said.

"In the meantime they picked up other work because agencies and other similar bodies that get Aboriginal funding close their doors on the weekends and at night when there are always problems.

"There's a big difference between SAPOL and years of the consistency of one person and his own officers. Tony is the voice and the face of the community continuously and constantly."

Port Augusta Mayor Brett Benbow has remained steadfast in his belief that City Safe does not fall under the jurisdiction of council and from the pocket of ratepayers.

The former City Safe program was initially introduced over a decade ago, co-funded by the state government and the council for around $50,000.

"On the completion of that, the government pulled the rope on funding and the then council funded it from then on," Mr Benbow said.

"It has increased from $100k a year to around $300k and it was just not seen fit by council and from hearing by majority of ratepayers, they didn't want to pay their rates for that to happen.

"As far as the petition, everyone has got a democratic right to put a petition up. But what I would ask the petitioners is what is the focus? Who will be funding that program? Who will operate it and manage it?

"Let's get it clear - our bylaws are the alcohol dry zone and car park breaches and so forth, but our by-laws do not cover what the problem is here. We have an anti-social behaviour issue."

Mr Benbow is demanding state and federal government support. He said the problem is more severe than ever and is beyond the capabilities of City Safe.

A meeting has been scheduled with South Australian Premier and Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Steven Marshall in February, but Ms Devine said she has no confidence in the outcome of that meeting.

"Any city people who come here are not privy to what we have that's going on here," she said.

"The service providers in Port Augusta should help the council contribute to funding the City Safe program because they get Aboriginal funding, and some of that funding should be handed over.

"Someone has to take care of the problem outside of business hours."