Carpark begging racket
Lord Mayor demands action on city beggars. Picture: Liam Croy

Drug-related violence and begging in city carparks has got so bad in recent months that the City of Perth has sought urgent meetings with government ministers to deal with the issue.

Stairwells are being used as drug dens and beggars are "extorting money under duress" from vulnerable patrons, according to parking officers.

The extent of the dangers and antisocial behaviour is revealed in a series of emails and incident reports by the officers obtained by The Weekend West under freedom of information laws.

They show that some inspectors dread working at the city's worst carparks - at His Majesty's Theatre, Roe Street, Pier Street, the State Library and Citiplace - and consider taking sick leave to avoid the inevitable confrontation and conflict.

"I fear for my own safety," one officer wrote.

Another said: "I feel unsafe and at risk when asking a group who have been lodged in the stairwell doing drugs to vacate the premises."

In an inter-office memo dated April 11, the inspectors' occupational safety and health representative said "a hazardous and unlawful situation" was occurring daily in city carparks.

He said the "most recent unsavoury practice" was for beggars and itinerant people to use carparks as de facto lodgings, drug dens or meeting places.

"They access the stairs or upper levels of carparks late at night where they then hide until the carparks are closed, locking them inside," he wrote.

"They unlawfully access and use power sockets to charge mobile phones and other electric equipment.

"Because most of the carparks have no toilets these persons defecate and urinate in the stairwells.

"During the daytime the itinerants gather in groups on the upper levels of the carpark stairwells where they consume liquor, inject and smoke drugs, access and interfere with the carpark firefighting equipment to gain water for their 'bongs' and to store or retrieve their drugs and paraphernalia."

The inspector said beggars had also become more belligerent and had "adopted a very forceful manner in the pay lobbies specifically targeting the elderly and infirm, mothers with small children, persons of small stature and tourists.

He said patrons complained of being intimidated and frightened by beggars pursuing them into a lift or to their car.

While beggars had been operating around carpark ticket machines for years, the officer said their method of operation changed last year.

"Rather than being ramshackle and haphazard, (they) became organised and they were observed on numerous occasions by staff gathering together in the laneway behind Pier Street making up cardboard signs which stated they were homeless and asked for money," he wrote.

"They often dispersed and went to pay lobbies at different carparks where they secreted themselves out of the view of the security cameras operating until complaints were made and they were detected by staff servicing machines.

"In the past few weeks carpark operators have observed beggars either approaching or being approached by a well-dressed male person who appears to be co-ordinating their actions and passing them small packages in exchange for money. . . actions that make me suspect them to be drug related."

The inspector said the carparks had also become the venues of targeted thefts from Subaru vehicles. "It is highly probable that homeless beggars are acting as lookouts and use mobile phones to communicate with each other alerting of the approach of security staff to evade detection and apprehension."

Another email from February said itinerant, homeless and drug-addled people were "infecting our carparks and the stairwells" creating unease and fear among clients.

A police spokesman said that, while begging was not an offence, where there was evidence of aggressive or intimidating behaviour, police officers had the power to issue move-on notices or take other appropriate action.

The West Australian

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