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Friday, February 12, 2010

Look poor to avoid attacks: Victoria top cop's advice to Indians students

Melbourne 7, 2010, , Press Trust of India,

Victorian police chief Simon Overland has advised Indian students in Australia to keep a low profile and "try to look as poor as you can" to avoid attacks, drawing strong condemnation from the community which called his statement "ridiculous".

Indian students could make themselves less of a target if they do not display their expensive gadgets, Oliver told an international students' safety forum on Saturday.

"Don't display your iPods, don't display your valuable watch, don't display your valuable jewellery. Try to look as poor as you can," Overland was quoted as saying by 'The Age'.

The Victorian Police Chief Commissioner said students could take some steps to protect themselves.

"If you can live somewhere safer, live somewhere safer," he said. "If you can avoid public transport into high-risk areas late at night, avoid it."

Victorian Premier John Brumby defended his top cop, saying the advice to the overseas students to avoid crime, as per Overland, was a comment about high crime areas.

"He may have been making the point that in some areas, there are higher crime rates than in others," the Premier was quoted as saying by 'AAP'.

Brumby said he and the police chief condemned in the strongest possible terms "acts of violence, and particularly any violence which is racially motivated".

But, the Federation of Indian Student Association (FISA) rejected Overland's remarks with its spokesperson Gautam Gupta calling the police chief's advice "ridiculous."

Gupta said Indians need not look "poor" to feel safe. "What is he (Overland) saying? Indians don't have the right to be rich? And if they look rich, do they may be have to get bashed? On one hand, everyone should look poor. On the other, don't live in poor areas (where crime rate is high). I don't understand."

On Overland's remarks that taxi drivers, including Indians, had a right to feel safe no matter what their nationality was, Gupta said "it's a work place. Every work place should be safe. I think it's a ridiculous idea. It is blaming the worker. It is blaming the victim."

However, Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition Executive Director Melba Marginson, who was the organiser of Saturday's forum, said Overland was just trying to describe few strategies to the students on how to avoid criminals' attention.

"It was in context to safety issues. Media has twisted Overland's statement. What he meant was to take some precautionary measures while travelling to a high risk area," said Marginson, who also chaired the forum.

Overland told the forum on Saturday that there was a disparity between perceptions and the facts about crimes against Indian people, saying Melbourne's permanent Indian population was not over-represented in crime statistics.

He pointed out the crimes of robberies were happening against those students who were working as cabbies and convenient store attendants.

Overland said police were doing everything they could to stop assaults on overseas students, some of which were racially-based but most of which were robbery-related.

He said crimes against Indian students were not reflected in crimes against the Indian community in general.

"However the key function of a state government is law and order which needs a massive overhaul in this state. This includes a greater police and security presence on the streets and on our public transport system."

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