6 March 2024

Call for lighting and cameras at Yerrabi Pond after string of indecent assaults

| Ian Bushnell
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Yerrabi Pond District Park in Gungahlin needs more lighting to make it safer, say the Friends of Yerrabi Pond. Photo: Darren Marks.

A string of indecent attacks on women at Yerrabi Pond District Park in Gungahlin has prompted calls for better lighting, security cameras and more police patrols at the popular recreation area.

Friends of Yerrabi Pond spokesperson Darren Marks said the community was becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of action as the number of incidents mounts.

Early in February, police sought witnesses to two incidents in January when a man on a black bicycle grabbed a woman and committed acts of indecency.

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Mr Marks said he had heard of similar incidents since, including a man who was threatened with violence before the offender rode off and a female work colleague who would no longer walk there after being menaced.

He believed many incidents were unreported, and most occurred at dusk or in the evening.

“How many people have been attacked by this individual and how many police are pursuing this individual who is apparently at large around Yerrabi Pond?” Mr Marks said.

He said concerns about safety at Yerrabi Pond go back years, and while the ACT Government had installed solar lights as a trial at one point and was planning other lighting as part of $3 million worth of planned upgrades, the response seemed grudging.

“We need the facility upgrades at Yerrabi Pond, but safety has always been a big concern,” Mr Marks said.

“Women in general say they feel pretty unsafe walking around Yerrabi Pond, and women shouldn’t have to feel unsafe.”

The area was popular with after-work walkers and runners.

He said the Transport Canberra & City Services (TCCS) plans he had sighted for lighting upgrades were still sketchy and piecemeal.

“There are some areas they’re not going to illuminate that I feel are of most concern for women because they are particularly dark and dangerous,” Mr Marks said.

The Friends of Yerrabi Pond would also like CCTV installed, similar to that in Glebe Park, particularly at the children’s playground.

Mr Marks said TCCS should also conduct a security audit or risk assessment.

The group had called for police to step up patrols, but they didn’t seem to have the resources.

Mr Marks said the recent closure of the Gungahlin Police Station due to lead and diesel contamination had only exacerbated the situation.

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He said police and politicians were not taking the situation seriously.

“I’ve got two girls myself and they venture round there and walk to school – it concerns me a lot,” he said.

Mr Marks said police had not even issued warnings to park users.

A government spokesperson said there had been extensive engagement with community advocacy groups and the broader community on the park upgrades that amounted to 1000 pieces of feedback, including from 976 surveys.

That feedback included requests for more rubbish bins, new and upgraded toilet facilities, improved signage, more parking, path improvements for pedestrians and cyclists, increased tree planting and better lighting.

Initial improvements delivered in 2021-22 addressed some of these requests with new shared path signage and line marking, drainage works along the path network and the installation of 13 solar lights on the north-western section of the Yerrabi Pond loop path.

“Further planning and design work has now been completed and will deliver additional upgrades, including two new toilet facilities on either side of the pond, new picnic facilities, additional parking on Phyllis Ashton Circuit, as well as additional LED lighting along the pond loop path from Mirrabei Drive down towards Bizant Street,” the spokesperson said.

Procurement was under way, and construction was expected to begin later this year.

“We have worked closely with the community and stakeholders to deliver improvements that align with their ideas for the area and also address their concerns, particularly around lighting,” the spokesperson said.

“An evaluation will be undertaken following completion of these upgrades to make sure they are meeting their intended purpose and to determine if further enhancements to the area are needed.

“We will continue to work with the community and stakeholders and thank everyone for their involvement in these upgrades so far.”

An ACT Policing spokesperson said police were aware of the recent incidents, and previously appealed to the public for information on Sunday, 4 February.

The investigation into the identity of the alleged offender remained ongoing and, where operational priorities allow, police would continue to conduct regular patrols in the Yerrabi Ponds area.

“We would encourage anyone who may have witnessed any of these incidents in the Yerrabi Ponds area to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000,” the spokesperson said.

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Did the government factor in the cost of the cameras, lights and police escorts when designing the public amenities? Another waste of the public purse that comes straight out of our rates in a misguided attempt to create useless “green spaces” that do nothing but attract sexual predators and drug addicts.

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