Police promise patrol blitz to ease public fears as Bourke Street victim identified

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Police will target Melbourne’s CBD, shopping centres and train stations – including conducting on-the-spot weapons searches – after a string of unrelated violent incidents.

The push comes after an alleged attack in Bourke Street that left one man dead and a woman in a serious condition, student safety warnings from high schools in Melbourne’s south-east and a police investigation into a group of teens who they suspect are connected to 14 robberies.

The man killed on Bourke Street was John Haasz, a 76-year-old from Brunswick East. He was a celebrated academic and philanthropist who was previously a member of the University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Science. He had donated to private school Wesley College – a community with which he was closely involved.

Zain Khan, 26, is accused of driving his mother’s Toyota sedan at speed along Bourke Street into Haasz’s white Hyundai just after 6.30pm on Friday. Haasz died at the scene.

“We offer our sincere condolences to John’s family and all who knew and were touched by his remarkable life,” Wesley College said in a statement.

Criminal justice advocates have urged against conflating a series of isolated cases of wrongdoing into a broader trend of youth crime increasing on Melbourne’s streets – a trend that is not born out in criminal statistics.

Victoria Police’s Commander Mark Galliott said Melbourne remained a very safe city, but conceded that officers would dedicate more resources to patrols in busy areas.

“We’ve already pre-planned a number of operations to occur. So, we have an increased presence on Friday and Saturday nights within city operations, but we’ll also see increased numbers, police numbers, with these operations,” he said.

“It’s important that people actually feel safe in the city, so they come spend money and spend time in the city as well.”

Victoria Police command said the force intended to declare several “omni” zones throughout the city this month. The measure grants officers additional powers to search anyone passing through a declared area for weapons.

September is a busy month for Melbourne. Students are on school holidays and people enter the CBD en masse for major events including the football finals and the start of the horse racing season.

David Murray, general manager of policy and advocacy at Jesuit Social Services, said Victorians should not misconstrue a string of crimes as being representative of a greater trend in the community.

“People do get kind of caught up in particular events or particular incidents, and I guess we have those wanting to demonstrate those as representative, but they don’t represent actually what’s going on,” he said.

“My concern is … when people without thought, without paying attention to the data, raise these kinds of very simplistic concerns about safety and risk, it really undoes of a lot of the good work that the rest of us are doing.”

The Bourke Street crash scene on Friday and (inset) Zain Khan.

Parents and school-aged children have been wary after an alleged abduction and armed robbery against a boy from Melbourne’s south-east last week. Police have charged a 14-year-old Frankston South boy with multiple offences over the incident.

Additionally, three private schools in Melbourne’s south-east – Sacre Coeur, Scotch College and Salesian College – warned parents about a string of attacks against students, including a violent incident at Chadstone shopping centre.

Statistics released to this masthead demonstrate Chadstone is one of the safest shopping centres in the city.

Xavier College and Elwood College also sent warnings to students.

Earlier this week, police said they were investigating whether a group of masked thieves who robbed a supermarket in Preston last week were responsible for another 13 thefts across Melbourne.

Four males were reported to have entered a store on Gilbert Street and approached the counter just after 8pm on Wednesday. Police believe the offenders stole about $5000 worth of cigarettes before they fled the scene.

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