Under attack for the "try to dress poor" advice to Indian students, the Victorian police have said the remarks were a "light-hearted summation" of the safety advice, which has been drawn "absolutely out of context."

Both the Victorian government and the police said the remarks, especially "try to look as poor as you can," were a "light-hearted summation of the advice" he [Victorian police chief Simon Overland] would give to any member of the community to be aware of their valuables, The Australian reported on Monday.

Mr. Overland told Indian students at a safety forum on Saturday that they could make themselves less of a target if they did not display their expensive gadgets. "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," he was quoted as saying by The Age.

"It [the remark] was absolutely taken out of context," a Victoria police spokesperson said.

Melba Marginson, executive director of the Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women's Coalition, which organised the forum, said: "He has been taken out of context. His statement to look poor has been twisted. It was mere summations of a few strategies avoid the attention of criminals."

However, the advice has apparently upset business and community groups, which have dubbed it as "wrong and unhelpful."

City of Brimbank Mayor Sam David, whose council lies in west Melbourne, said Mr. Overland's advice to Indians not to live in areas with higher crime rates was not helpful. "It's wrong because the Indian community have to live somewhere, and we are very proud to have them in our city."

The western suburbs needed more police at railway stations and shopping centres, he said.

Chris James, spokesman of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he was concerned at Melbourne being painted as an "epicentre of violence," and at the consequent economic impact.

"In some respects it is sensible advice," he said. "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."

More In: International | News