Can Myers Park be safe?

  • Breaking
  • 26/11/2013

Frustrated at what he calls police inaction, a man brutally attacked in Auckland's Myers Park has begun a campaign to keep people away.

Arun Meena has erected dozens of posters around the park, warning of its dangers.

"If it is after dark and you are alone, please avoid the park," the posters read.

"Go around the park and not through it! For the sake of 10 minutes do not risk your life."

The 32-year-old was walking home through Myers Park on Friday, September 26, when he was approached by a stranger trying to get his attention.

"The last thing I remember was waking up in the park bleeding profusely."

Mr Meena says he doesn’t remember anything of the attack and is still unable to piece together what happened. However, he believes the person who distracted him wasn't acting alone, and another person came up behind him and struck him on the back of the head.

Mr Meena awoke to find his wallet and phone had been stolen. When he went to report the incident to police, an ambulance was called and Mr Meena was taken to hospital.

"I suffered five lacerations, each one needing stitches ranging from five to 20 stitches," he says.

"My left ear was split into two and cartilage showing, but the worse was the blow to the back of my head - that needed 20 stitches and has still not healed."

The attack on Mr Meena is just one of many in the area over the last few months, and occurred just metres from where homeless man Steven Harris was fatally assaulted weeks earlier.

Mr Meena says after discussing his attack with other Aucklanders, he was horrified to find Myers Park has always been a trouble spot. One colleague told him she had witnessed people being abused, harassed and attacked from her office window which overlooks the park.

There are CCTV cameras in the park – but two months after the attack on Mr Meena, police informed him the pictures are of such low quality, his attackers cannot be identified.

Acting Central Auckland Police Commander Inspector Vaughn Graham says while the cameras do need upgrading, this is only part of the issue.

He says it is difficult to positively identify offenders or prove their involvement in an offence when the victim is only able to provide a "generic" description.

'Safety is everyone's responsibility'

Police agree the area is a problem, and officers frequently patrol known hot spots throughout the city in order to prevent and detect crime.

"Safety is everyone's responsibility but it's disheartening for us all to know there are parts of any metropolitan city in any country that are less safe than others, depending on the time of day or night, season, event," Insp Graham says.

"[Police] are aware that the peak times for offending in and around Myers Park are Fridays and Saturdays between 8pm and 3am. We therefore advise people against putting themselves at unnecessary risk by entering this park, or any other area of risk alone, particularly during those hours".

Mr Meena has since set up the 'Make Myers Park Safe' Facebook page, which currently has more than 400 likes.

"I hope to prevent another attack or harassment taking place," he says.

"I do not want to see another serious assault, or worse – a murder – due to inaction."

He says authorities "are not taking any steps to ensure the same".

However, police say they are pleased with what Mr Meena is doing and welcome any "legal and safe interventions that will improve public safety anywhere in the city".

Insp Graham says they are working closely with Auckland Council and other agencies to prevent crimes and reduce victimisation.

"Auckland Council has agreed to install four more cameras in the park, which will be operational by March, we hope," Insp Graham says.

"The camera installations are part of a larger project to upgrade the park facilities and are designed to enhance safety."

The cameras will be monitored at Auckland Central Police Station in the District Command Centre.

Until then, Mr Meena says at night time, the park should be avoided altogether.

"For the sake of an extra 10 minutes, they might save themselves from being hurt."

Anti-social behaviour a deterrent for park users

Earlier this year, the council began a consultation process to decide what to do with the park. They found safety and security to be the two major issues preventing people from wanting to use it.

"There is a significant amount of anti-social behaviour in the park, which acts as a deterrent for more positive uses," their report reads.

The council listed problems being 'hiding places' in the park created by overgrown vegetation, a lack of visibility from surrounding streets, minimal enforcement of the liquor ban and insufficient lighting.

They are now working towards improving the park by installing improved lighting, improving linkages to surrounding streets, pruning overgrown vegetation to open up sight lines, and improving relationships with police, local businesses and residents to help address crime in the area. They are also considering after-hours vehicle control and security patrols.

Police told 3 News they are working with the council in an effort to make these ideas to reality.

'It's going to take time to bring people back'

Labour Party police spokesperson Jacinda Ardern says it's a shame that in a city which lacks green space, Myers Park is under-utilised, but says many Aucklanders have written it off because of safety concerns.

"It's going to take us a bit of time to bring people back – but it's worth investing in," she says.

"Ultimately what you need is some really basic security-style upgrades, like better lighting in areas. Once those basic elements are in place and it's a place that's really inviting for people, then it's up to us to really start taking it back and making sure that as a community, we turn it back into that kind of public place."

Hundreds of brochures have been printed and distributed to homes and businesses in the vicinity of the park. Large posters which read 'MYERS PARK IS NOT SAFE' have also been erected at each entrance.

Mr Meena says the feedback he has received on his campaign has been "fantastic" and he hopes to encourage the public to "think safe, act safe, be safe" to prevent any more attacks from taking place.

3 News

source: newshub archive