'Singled out': Residents react to 'heavy-handed' police crackdown

·7-min read

Police were out in full force as an operation deploying over 100 extra police officers to the suburbs of southwest Sydney commenced.

On Thursday, NSW Police announced the operation in response to a growing number of Covid cases being identified in Sydney's southwest.

NSW recorded 44 new cases in the 24 hours to 8pm on Thursday, 29 of which were active in the community for some or all of their infectious period.

The number of close contacts isolating across NSW also doubled in 24 hours, from 7000 to 14,000.

At least 100 more police will be deployed to southwest Sydney from Friday in a
At least 100 more police will be deployed to southwest Sydney from Friday in a "high-visibility" operation to ensure compliance with public health orders. Source: AAP

Police response 'unfair', residents claim

The decision to have an elevated police presence has been met with backlash by many residents and observers, who claim the response in the southwest is stronger than what has been seen in the eastern suburbs.

Epidemiologist Professor Mary-Louise McLaws told the ABC on Thursday the "dedicated police operation" was "fairly heavy-handed".

Speaking to the ABC on Friday, the CEO of Arab Council Australia, Randa Kattan, questioned why the police would be targeting southwest Sydney, but not other areas.

"Why is there more police on the ground than there was in any other area? As I mentioned, you know, people generally follow the rules and we know very well that people are following the rules," she said.

She said the extra police presence was "excessive" and "disturbing" to some in the community.

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"We don't want to fall into that trap of, you know, like having people questioning, is this racism, and you know, frankly, on the ground, that's what it feels like, that we are being discriminated against in this area," she said.

Residents in southwest Sydney told A Current Affair they felt the extra police wasn't fair.

"I just think it's not fair. I think it's targeting this area, because as you saw, Bondi, Manly, there was a lot more people, more gatherings," one person told ACA.

"Here, as you see, there's not many people. We're just doing our shopping and then going home. So I think it's...I feel that we have been singled out." 

"I feel like western Sydney has been attacked, to tell you the truth, because it didn't come from here, it came from Bondi," another local told the show.

Photos shared by NSW Police show officers out in the streets of suburbs in the south, including mounted police officers.

Mounted Police were seen in Fairfield, amid the police's operation to ensure compliance. Source: NSW Police
Mounted Police were seen in Fairfield, amid the police's operation to ensure compliance. Source: NSW Police

Meanwhile, pictures taken by the Australian Associated Press show the streets of Bankstown and Liverpool, both in the southwest completely deserted.

The latest Covid outbreak in Sydney was first detected in the eastern suburbs and several people on social media pointed out the difference in the response from police between the two areas of Sydney.

Democracy in Colour has started a petition, calling for pandemic support, not police.

"Police are not health workers," the petition says. 

"Their presence is completely unwarranted and shows very clearly the different standards of treatment between the overwhelmingly white Northern Beaches and the melting pot of Liverpool. 

"It’s a ham-fisted, punitive approach that targets working class communities and people of colour in Sydney’s south west."

An empty plaza is seen in the southwestern suburb of Liverpool in Sydney, Friday. Source: AAP
An empty plaza is seen in the southwestern suburb of Liverpool in Sydney, Friday. Source: AAP

The petition calls for the cancellation for the mounted police in southwest Sydney and remove the extra police patrols.

Democracy in Colour head Neha Madhok said the police response was "thinly veiled racism" and targeted people of colour and working-class communities.

Premier denies targeting any suburbs: 'Postcode doesn't matter'

In her daily press conference on Friday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian denied the south west was being singled out and said police were following the virus.

"South-west Sydney, Bondi, suburbs closer to the Shire, police will move where the virus is moving," she said.

"We know from the get-go that compliance is our biggest challenge and we appreciate it's always a fine balance but we need to stop people doing the wrong thing no matter where they live - in any part of Sydney or Greater Sydney or anywhere else subject to the stay-at-home orders.

"I want to make this point very, very clear: the police, regulators and focus moves to where the virus is moving and it does not matter what the postcode is."

One day earlier, Ms Berejiklian apologised for any offence caused with the crackdown.

"If I have offended anybody I apologise it is not intentional. It is really important to be honest and direct and to get the message out so that people sit up and notice."

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New exposure sites around Sydney revealed

Several new exposure sites have been identified from many areas in Sydney — including the IKEA in Tempe and Bunnings in Randwick.

Anyone who is considered a "close contact" must immediately get tested and isolate for 14 days, regardless of the result.

New close contact venues in NSW are:

  • Oporto, Burwood, Sunday July 4, 1pm to 1.05pm

  • IKEA, Tempe, Tuesday, July 6, 10am to 9pm

  • Terry White Chemmart, Revesby, Tuesday, July 6, 8am to 3pm

  • Speed Medical Practice, Liverpool, Wednesday, July 7, 11.15am to 1.45pm

  • Decode Group Construction Excavation site, Homebush, Wednesday, July 7, 7am to 3.30pm

  • St Andrews Pharmacy, St Andrews, Wednesday, July 7, 8.30am to 3.30pm

  • Wetherill Park Medical Centre, Wetherill Park, Wednesday, July 7, 1.45pm to 2.30pm

Casual contacts must immediately get tested and isolate until a negative result is received.

New casual contact venues in NSW include:

  • Bunnings, Randwick, Thursday, July 1, 4.30pm to 5.30pm

  • Service NSW, Friday, July 2, 1.30pm to 2pm

  • 7-Eleven, Matraville, Friday, July 2, 3.15pm to 4.45pm

  • Woolworths, Mt Druitt, Saturday, 5.15pm to 5.45pm

  • Coles, Kareela, Friday July 2, 5pm to 10pm and Saturday July 3, 5pm to 10pm

  • Kmart, Pagewood, Friday, June 25 12.55pm to 1.15pm and Saturday 4.20pm to 5pm

  • McDonalds, Taren Point, Sunday July 4, 9.10am to 9.30am and Monday July 5, 1.35pm to 1.55pm

  • Westfield, Burwood, Sunday, July 4, 11.50am to 1.10pm

  • Kmart, Burwood, Sunday, July 4, 11.50am to 12.35pm

  • Bunnings, Hoxton Park, Sunday, July 4, 4.25pm to 5pm

  • 1825 Interiors, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 1.35pm to 1.50pm

  • Johnny's Furniture, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 1.55pm to 2.15pm

  • Oz Design Furniture, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 2.15pm to 2.40pm

  • Fair Price Furniture, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 2.40pm to 2.50pm

  • Nick Scali Furniture, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 2.50pm to 3.20pm

  • Harvey Norman, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 3.25pm tp 3.50pm

  • Nick Scali Clearance Outlet, Campbelltown, Sunday July 4, 3.50pm to 4.05pm

  • BP Connect, Mosman, Sunday July 4, 3.15pm to 3.35pm

  • Evergreen Fresh World, Burwood, Sunday July 4, 5pm to 5.15pm

  • Tong Li Supermarket, Burwood, Monday July 5, 12.55pm too 1.10pm

  • Maroubra Beach Pavilion Beachfront Cafe, Maroubra, Monday July 5, 2.30pm to 2.45pm and Tuesday July 6, 2.30pm to 2.45pm

Anyone who was at Westfield Hurstville on Friday July 2 between 1.30pm and 2.20pm and Parc Menai Skatepark on Monday July 5 between 2pm and 4pm is being asked to monitor for symptoms and immediately get tested and self isolate until a negative result is received.

A full list of exposure sites can be found on the NSW Health website here.

"Anyone with even the mildest of cold-like symptoms is urged to immediately come forward for testing and isolate until a negative result is received," NSW Health said in a statement.

Due to the mounting number of cases in NSW, the lockdown restrictions have tightened, meaning people must stay at home unless it is "absolutely necessary" to leave.

With AAP

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