Hoons rule over sleepless residents

Skid marks in the Mega Centre carpark. 243964_09 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

A high-profile police operation targeting hoons has failed to quell the incessant noise from a Springvale shopping centre car park, residents say.

The Springvale Mega Centre car park on Princes Highway is on the radar of police as part of its anti-hooning Operation Achilles.

With a 24/7 McDonald’s outlet on site, it has been a magnet for revving cars and cheering crowds for all hours most nights, as reported by Star Journal in July.

A sleepless neighbour told Star Journal that, if anything, the bombardment of backfiring, burnouts and racing had ramped up.

He recorded 45 nights of hooning noise in the past two months.

The backfiring of cars racing up and down the straights of Princes Highway echoes. It’s like a “shotgun going off”, he says.

“We’re just tired of it. The police need to step it up.

“How are these people even on the road?”

During a weekend of legal car racing at Sandown on 25-26 February, a mob of 70 cars “came out to play” at night, the resident said.

He contacted Springvale police but the mob’s noise continued unabated until 5.30am, he said.

Police say they responded to the mass gathering at Springvale Junction and Princes Highway.

They issued infringement notices for minor offences. There was no intentional loss of traction, excessive speed or other high-risk driving detected, however.

The public was “generally well behaved,” police say.

Inspector Peter Koger, Victoria Police’s local area commander for Greater Dandenong, said police have regularly patrolled known hoon hot spots including the Springvale shopping centre during Operation Achilles.

“This intense focus has resulted in a decrease in hoon activity in the area.

“It is hard to comprehend why individuals participate in reckless behaviour on our roads and the community and police are rightly sick of it.”

Police say they are monitoring known groups and people to stop illegal hoon meets.

They use automatic number-plate recognition technology and mobile CCTV surveillance to identify hoon-event participants.

Police also have powers to identify and report loud vehicles to the Environment Protection Authority Victoria.

“The majority of the community do the right thing in obeying road rules and take responsibility for their actions but there are those few who think they can flout the law, cause damage to local streets and put innocent road users at risk,” Inspector Koger said.

“Police in Greater Dandenong will continue to target illegal hoon activity, put offenders before the courts and keep our community safe from reckless driver behaviour.”

Greater Dandenong councillor Sean O’Reilly told a council meeting on 28 February that MPs and Victoria Police didn’t respond to then-mayor Angela Long’s call for a meeting on the Mega Centre issue in 2021.

“One resident tells me that he has contacted the police multiple times but police say that they are too busy.

“It is an issue that is not easy to resolve but I think for the residents’ sake, for their own peace of mind or peaceful amenity of living, we should do more.”

City planning director Jody Bosman said the “cat and mouse game” was a “problem that has gone on unfortunately for too long”.

“Victoria Police have a specific operation that deals with hooning in the South East and this particular site is very much on (their) radar.

“I am not too sure what the answer is.

“I can assure you that this matter has already stretched our minds and stretched our ingenuity and unfortunately it keeps coming back.

“It will stop for a while and then it will recur and I think that there a number of sites around

the South East where these groups of hoon drivers move around in a cat and mouse game with

Victoria Police.”

According to a 28 February council report, Victoria Police is negotiating with the shopping centre’s owner Ouson Group on ways to deter hoon gatherings.

Options include enforcing temporary parking restrictions in the car park and temporary bollards.

Last year, the shopping centre’s owner Ouson Group did not respond to the Star Journal’s enquiries.