Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Russell Street

Russell Street has been well known in Melbourne as a place where people deal drugs, particularly heroin. Leading up to the Commonwealth Games there was a big police crackdown on drugs in the CBD, and so the market moved out to places like Collingwood, Richmond and Footscray. Some people think that as Russell Street apparently isn't a drug market anymore at this has provided inertia for a 'clean up' of Russell Street, particularly the west side, between Bourke and Lonsdale Streets. I was at a meeting on Wednesday afternoon where there was a lot of talk about this. They were talking about stuff like getting new paving stones in (to lift morale of traders and encourage them to improve) and encouraging students to move into the upper floors above shops, because many of them are vacant. On Thursday morning I went for a bit of a walk down Russell Street to have a look around.

The Hungry Jacks in Russell Street is always open. They have a big flourescent sticker on their window saying so.

Kings Kebab is a new shop, and they have been staying open late at night, and doing the whole kerbside trading thing, meaning there's more people out in Russell Street at night. Some people reckon this has been discouraging drug dealing.

This is Bullens Lane, which is off Russell Street.

There have been a lot of problems in Bullens Lane with bad waste management and with air pollution, which is why there are so many air conditioners. Apparently it's a lot tidier and cleaner now. People have been putting up advertising posters, so people must be using the laneway, probably to get into Bar Altitude, which has recently been renovated.

It's thought that more people passing through this lane is discouraging drug dealing and using here. However, in Bullens Lane there's also evidence that the drug market hasn't been pushed out of the CBD as some people would like to think:

(There's a syringe sticking out of the paper bag in the corner.)

This is the game arcade that is seen by some as an encouragement to drug dealers.

There used to be two game arcades in Russel Street, but the other one was recently relocated.

There are a lot of Asian restaurants and Asian grocery stores in Russell Street.

This is the Exford Hotel, which is being seen as a model of what Russell Street could be. Apparently a lot of students hang out there, and they have free wireless Internet.

This is an old ViewMaster that has been embedded into a door in Russell Street.
I had a look inside, but someone had stuck pencils in the eye-holes or something. Apparently it's been there for years.

There are a lot of vacant shops in this area of Russell Street, and some people are apparently hoping they'll be leased as cafes.

I'm a bit bothered by these ideas of 'cleaning up' Russell Street. So far it doesn't seem to me as though many of the Russell Street traders are even that enthusiastic about it. It seems more like it's people in other parts of the CBD who are pushing for it, to make the rest of the city seem nice and pretty. I'm also a bit bothered by the ideas about pushing the drug market out of the CBD, because it just hides the problem away where it's less likely to be noticed.


Electric Chikken said...

What is it with Australia (particularly the government) and the whole band-aid solution thing?

It's a worry, it is.

Anonymous said...

I know this blog post is old af, but a few weeks ago I was wandering down Russell St at night and there were junkies/homeless people everywhere. It's a really trashy place. Lots of regular working people too though. It's busy and it doesn't feel unsafe, but when I went into hungry jacks loads of beggars kept coming in and asking customers for money. The staff do nothing to keep them out. This is 9 years after you posted this, so I don't think that area's improved.