It’s Szn Festival, so here’s what you need to know about ‘designated areas’ where police can search anyone

Victoria Police are often present at festivals and major events, but their little-known powers to stop and search people arbitrarily and without a warrant came to light on social media over the weekend. Here’s what you need to know about them.

Ahead of Melbourne’s LGBTQIA Summer Camp music festival on Saturday, writer and advocate Joshua Badge tweeted a public service announcement to attendees. Having read the Victorian Government Gazette, a resource that provides official notification of decisions or actions taken by government bodies, they alerted their supporters that the CBD was a “designated area” on the day of the festival.

“Girls and gays!” the tweet said.

“If you’re heading to summer camp today, please note that VicPol has declared the CBD and Carlton to be a ‘designated area,’ which means they can stop and search people without a warrant.

“If you are Aboriginal, POC, queer or trans, you may want to avoid traveling across town to and from the festival.”

The post was shared widely on social media, beyond Melbourne’s LGBTQIA circles, with many reacting in dismay at the existence of such powers.

“There was no hysteria in the community, I think most people just didn’t realize this was the case,” Badge told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“Who reads the government gazette when they go out on weekends? How is anyone supposed to know they’re in this arbitrary zone at this arbitrary time when the police suddenly have more power than they usually do?

“Even if someone knew their rights under normal law, they would simply be wrong this time.”

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Under Victoria’s Section 10D Control and Arms Act of 1990the police commissioner can designate a part of the state for a specific period of time where the officers will have expanded powers.

The powers may vary slightly depending on the needs of the area, but in most cases, members of the police are authorized to stop and search anyone or anything within the area without a warrant. They may also detain a person, vehicle, or item for as long as is reasonably necessary to conduct a search and may seize any item the officer reasonably suspects to be a weapon.

Police have also slightly strengthened crowd control measures and may order a person to leave the designated area if the officer reasonably believes that the person is covering their face primarily to hide their identity or protect them from the effects of a controlled substance. of crowds (like pepper). spray).

While all statements must be published in the bulletin in advance, Victoria Police are not required to say why it is happening, where they will be or who they will attack.

The act state A designated area should only be used when there has been more than one incident of violence or disorder in that area in the previous 12 months that involved the use of weapons; either an event is going to be held in that area and there have been incidents of violence or disorder involving the use of weapons on occasions prior to that event. The police must also have determined that there is a possibility of a repeat of the violence or disorder.

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PEDESTRIAN.TV sent specific questions to Victoria Police about the intent behind Saturday’s designated area, which was in place from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. Sunday. They declined to comment, but sent out a press release about a fatal stabbing on Bourke Street on October 30.

Designated areas are declared quite frequently. They can cover large areas of the city or be located in a specific public area like a train station.

Most of the designated areas in the last 12 months have been in Melbourne’s outer suburbs, but some have also coincided with major events. PEDESTRIAN.TV identified two that turned out to be in first Y last days of St Kilda Festival in February 2022 covering the St Kilda area, and another on new year’s eve from 5pm Friday 31 December 2021 to 5am Saturday 1 January 2022, which covered the CBD and parts of East, South, West and North Melbourne.

Badge said they were personally concerned about the the powers could be used for drug busts.

Even though the powers that be are all about finding weapons, they could still prosecute for anything else they found,” they said.

“There’s a really easy slide that happens from what these powers are meant to do in theory and how they might actually be used in practice.”

Badge also said that additional measures such as designated areas did nothing to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQIA communitywhat’s wrong with it historically been over-monitored.

2021 Pride Lobby Investigation Revealed 80 percent of LGBTQIA Victorians said they did not feel they could trust the police to use their powers reasonably, and 80 percent also said they did not feel safe when there was a large police presence at community events.

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“It’s certainly not building trust,” Badge said.

“What that means is that when LBGTQIA people are victims of hate crimes, hate speech, street harassment, dating violence, sexual offenses, whatever, they won’t go to the police because they feel like they’re not going to get justice. fair. audience.

“Overall, I would say these powers are a huge overreach. The fact that the police can declare an area at any time for any unstated reason that gives them a set of powers for as long as they want is a bit off.”


Image: Getty Images/Mark Metcalfe