Much has been said recently in the media on police numbers, or lack thereof as Victoria experiences a massive increase in crime, but unfortunately it remains an area where we are not seeing improvement.
State crime figures to the March quarter (the latest figures released) showed massive rises in the level of crime in Victoria. In East Gippsland it was 11% and in Wellington 14%.
My strong view is that our police do what is a very tough job, very well, but our force needs the resources required to do the job properly and meet community expectations. I will elaborate on my concerns.
If we take the 13,151 total police FTE (full time equivalent) figure for November 2014 and then extrapolate that at a population growth rate of 1.7% p.a., for the 19 month period of December 2014 to June 2016, total sworn police numbers should have increased by approximately 354 compared with the actual increase of only 160 FTE - less than half of what is actually required.
However, even that is not the full story. When you also consider that despite there being an overall increase of 160 – the police’s own figures show a reduction of 82 front line police (that is stationed at local police stations) since 2014.
So the overall increases in police numbers are falling a long way short of keeping pace with population growth and the number of police in local police stations has astoundingly dropped.
This is when crime is surging in this state and we have seen a wave of home invasions, assaults, car jackings (up 80%) and gang violence.
In the recent budget, the Government announced an additional 300 police over the next few years. This is not enough to even catch up on the shortfall and falls way short of getting anywhere matching the population per capita growth.
On a local level we have summer coming up and a town like Lakes Entrance will swell from a population of around 6500 to over 50,000 – but will not have more police resources relocated from outside the region to deal with this – as has occurred in years past.
It is a matter I have raised in the Parliament several times this year and received less than satisfactory responses.
Last Christmas we had the station closed for long periods on weekends during peak Christmas holiday time. There may have been a patrol car in the town, but that is not good enough.
One tourist who lost his wallet went to the station three times one day (a Saturday) to see if it had been handed in – and if not – report it stolen. It was closed each time.
For a tourist town this falls well short of the mark of what visitors to our region should expect. The doors should be open from 9am – 5pm at the very least – and have a car on patrol as well.
The answer from the government is the person should call triple zero if police assistance is needed – really - call triple zero for a lost wallet. Just open the station!
When in Government, the Coalition had a strong record on policing.
We fully delivered on delivered on the election commitment of 1700 more police and in fact delivered 1900 - the single largest recruitment program in history.
This was done in addition to the 950 Protective Services Officers (PSO’s) manning train stations and the like.
The Coalition will continue to advocate for penalties that better reflect community expectations for serious criminals and more police to bring the crime wave we are experiencing under control.
Help and support should always be offered for those in need, but for criminals who continually flout the law and have not respect for it – they should be held accountable for their actions. We need an appropriately staffed police force to achieve this.
Making matters worse, last siting week Labor and the Greens voted down the Coalition’s ‘No body, no parole’ legislation.
The Bill proposed to deny parole to convicted murderers who refuse to reveal the location of their victim’s body. Murderers who refuse to disclose this information simply do not deserve to be considered for parole.
I was astounded Labor and the Greens opposed this (it was supported by the Upper House crossbenchers).
Unfortunately, while crime rates rise and there remains concern over elements of our parole system, we have a government too weak to take action, while convicted killers are being let off the hook.
Earlier this year, the Coalition announced that if elected, it will increase frontline police numbers, and also introduce new offences of car-jacking and aggravated car-jacking with maximum jail terms of 15 and 25 years respectively, as well as statutory minimum sentences to ensure the strong sentences are handed down by the courts.
We introduced this legislation to Parliament recently and hope it will gain support, but after last week’s decision, who knows.
I reiterate that our police officers, especially those here at the eastern end of the state, do a tremendous job in ensuring we remain safe. Unfortunately it is the Government’s response to support these men and women and address the crime wave that has left a lot to be desired.
Monday, August 29, 2016