19 March 2021|Media
Parents of pupils at a school near Richmond’s controversial injecting room were told not to use the main entrance on Thursday after a dead body was found outside.
Mums and dads say they are “living in constant fear” and the suspected drug overdose is just the latest in a long list of crimes that blight their neighbourhood.
The Herald Sun can reveal Richmond West Primary School, which is metres from the injecting room, had been placed into lockdown twice in less than a week.
In one incident a man was caught inside the school grounds allegedly wielding a knife at 2.50pm on Wednesday. He was charged with trespass, possessing a controlled weapon and breach of bail.
One parent said her son had seen drug users injecting themselves in the school grounds and had seen several people overdosing nearby.
“I am too fearful to send my son to school,” she said. “He has picked up needles when walking to school, he has seen fights, all of it — it needs to stop.
“This injecting room has been nothing but trouble — it needs to be moved. I’m scared a child is going to get seriously hurt due to the violent people this place attracts.
“We are living in fear, constant fear. Our lives matter too.”
Nearby resident Mark Soffer, who has lived in the area for five years, said the issue got worse every year.
“I can’t walk down the street without coming across someone who is under the influence of drugs,” Mr Soffer said. “The reality is, people like us with young kids are thinking of moving out. We don’t want to raise our daughter in this environment.”
Another local, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said she had seen men unwittingly expose themselves to children while high on drugs.
“It’s just disgusting,” she said. “I can’t believe this is happening around school grounds. I am looking to move out of the area as it’s just become so dangerous.
“I think there needs to be more security around this facility and more police — it’s not safe and not a nice place to raise a family.”
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said: “Our focus on detecting, deterring and preventing crime while also apprehending offenders is unwavering.
“We understand it would be confronting to witness incidents of criminal activity or anti-social behaviour.”
Opposition mental health spokeswoman Emma Kealy said heroin-related overdose deaths and ambulance attendances were on the rise and kids were regularly locked down in the classroom.
“A dead body outside a Labor government-operated drug-injecting centre, and violent drug-induced behaviour, is something no child should face on their walk to school,” she said.
But Health Minister Martin Foley backed the injecting room’s location. “Where the drug market operates, sadly, is in the North Richmond community, and that is where this centre is and that is where it will continue to operate for the rest of this five-year trial that is under way,” he said.
“That is why every independent review that has looked at this process supports it being where the harm is, and that is why this government will continue to support it.”
An education department spokesman said the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and school communities was the highest priority.
“The school currently takes appropriate steps to ensure students are kept safe from issues in the local community, with secure fencing, CCTV, strong protocols in place to support students who may witness any incident, and a comprehensive student wellbeing program,” he said.
AFTERNOON OF HORROR UNFOLDS
For North Richmond mum Tina, her daily routine includes seeing discarded heroin syringes, passed-out drug users and deals on the street.
Like many parents, she doesn’t feel like her voice is being heard.
It’s what has become the norm. A daily cycle of violence, disturbance and fear.
The shocking has become the every day.
When the Herald Sun visited drug-plagued Lennox Street on Wednesday, a string of shocking incidents unfolded within minutes.
Outside Richmond’s controversial supervised injecting room a man was seen lying under a tree — overdosed — just after 1.30pm.
“This has just become the norm for us,” a resident told the Herald Sun.
A group of men emerge from the facility, then rummage through the comatosed man’s belongings.
A terrified mother, passing by, is seen tightly holding on to her child’s hand. She walks off the footpath and into the road to avoid the chaos.
A local resident, who was visibly panicked, immediately phoned triple-0, to alert them to the man’s condition and theft of his belongings.
Then, just before the bell rings for end of the school day, a man is seen, brandishing a knife, in the school grounds.
Stunned parents look on as police officers swoop on him.
The incident sends the primary school into lockdown.
Tina, waiting to pick up her children, said she was left “shocked” by the incident.
“This makes me feel really scared, our voices are not being heard,” she said. “We are sick of finding needles everywhere and seeing people overdosed constantly, this is getting out of hand.”
Back at the overdosed man, paramedics have arrived and are working on the motionless figure. He is revived, an hour after the initial triple-0 call, awakening with a jolt.
He begins to shout, opening his bag and pulling out dozens of syringes.
A safe injecting room worker who attempted to help him was then forcibly pushed — with the man screaming: “Leave me alone, leave my stuff alone”.
Another man on drugs, who walks out from the injecting facility, rolls up his T-shirt to cover his face. He then chases a man, who has to seek refuge in a neighbour’s back garden as the thug continues to hurl abuse.
Another resident calls out “nothing has changed in years”.
“To be honest, whoever thought it was a smart idea to put an injecting facility near a school is truly stupid,” he said.
On Thursday a man is found dead. It is believed to be drug-related.
Back outside the injecting room complex, a group of men are seen brazenly drug dealing
And the daily cycle begins again.