There have been renewed calls in the suburbs of Redfern and Waterloo for tenants of public housing who have a history with serious drug crimes to be evicted permanently.
Redfern’s Local Area Commander Luke Freudenstein appeared on the ABC Radio Program The World Today and called for increased powers to remove trouble residents from the area forever.
“People who are applying, if they have a history of drug supply, we don’t want them in Redfern and Waterloo, and it’s not me just saying it as a police officer,” he told the ABC’s Lindy Kerin.
“I speak to the community every day, and the community is sick and tired of these drug suppliers making use and profiting at the benefit of some poor people who have dependencies.”
The comments led to criticism and questioning by Greens councillor for the City of Sydney, Irene Doutney.
“When you’ve got people like this that are vulnerable – and you push them out you leave them no choice but homelessness and crime,” Cr Doutney told City Hub.
“It’s pretty extreme for someone to find themselves just completely written out of the housing system. I’m sure that there’s more that could be done in prisons to rehabilitate people, I’m sure there could be more police programs to help people.”
Commander Freudenstein said that rehabilitation is an important aspect of the process and always has been.
“Everyone deserves a place to stay, I agree, and you know I agree with rehabilitation,” he said.
“But you’re not going to rehabilitate, when you come into an area that you’ve been before, that you sold drugs there before, you know the people. Move somewhere else.”
The Family and Community Services Minister, Gabrielle Upton, is on the side of change and says the Government are as well.
“The NSW Government is working to improve the behavior of those public housing tenants who are making life a misery for the vast majority of law abiding residents,” she said.
“We are looking to target the criminal elements in public housing right across the state, not just Redfern.”
In response to Cr Doutney’s fear that the possession of even a small amount of drugs could lead to a lifetime ban from public housing, Minister Upton said only the worse crimes would ever constitute this.
“Any possible bans for people to continue to access public housing should only be for serious breaches including drug dealing from the public housing that they live in,” she said.
“We need to have a system that rewards good behaviour and punishes people who abuse the privilege of subsidised rent.”
Cr Doutney isn’t convinced that this will be effective on the crime the Minister and Local Area Commander want to stop.
“They’ll dip back into homelessness and all the things they were doing before they got arrested if they don’t have any help – they’ll just do it somewhere else,” she said.