Chronic shortage of frontline police in Wyndham

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Police heads say numbers are not keeping pace with the exploding population growth of the municipality

Police Association of Victoria boss Ron Iddles has thrown his weight behind claims that Wyndham is suffering a chronic shortage of frontline police, saying the situation is so bad it’s affecting officers’ health and ability to do their jobs.

“First-response police numbers in Wyndham are nowhere near keeping pace with the exploding population growth of the municipality,” said MrIddles.

“There are actually fewer frontline police at the Werribee police station than there were in 2010,” he added.

In May, the Victorian Labor party released figures they said were obtained through Freedom of Information, showing there were 20 per cent fewer frontline police officers in Wyndham today than three years ago.

Minister for police Kim Wells brushed off the attack, pointing out that the government was on track to deliver 1,700 extra police by November at a cost of $602 million.

Victoria Police also denied there was “any crisis within the organisation”, saying there were 1,500 more operational police in the force now than in 2010.

But MrIddles said the problem was that there are fewer police based at police stations.

“This is an important point because it’s police attached to police stations who provide the core business of policing, and that is to provide a first-response to public calls for police attendance,” he said. “So if there are fewer police attached to police stations, then this compromises their ability to respond to public calls for assistance,” he added.

MrIddles said the lack of staff was stretching police on the beat to the limit.

“Stress levels are through the roof and morale among police at Werribee and Wyndham North police stations is the lowest it’s been for a long time,” he said.

“We can assure the public that their local police are doing the very best they can under extremely difficult circumstances. Needless to say, Wyndham desperately needs an injection of more frontline officers so they can provide an adequate policing service to their community,” he added.

Victoria Police senior media officer Kelly Yates said looking at the number of police in stations alone presented a skewed picture of how many police were working in an area.

“Many of our police are not physically attached to the stations. They are working in specialist squads, tackling family violence, organised crime and offending on our roads. These police are not always based at local police stations, but are still working in local communities,” she said.

Ms Yates said there were 10,786 operational police in Victoria in December 2010 and 12,339 today, with an increase of 334 police in the North West Metro area. Police numbers for Wyndham were not provided to The Indian Sun.

Community social worker JasvinderSidhu said he is in close contact with local police and believed “police numbers are even lower than 84 in Wyndham for nearly 200,000 people”.

MrSidhu said people in the community were being discouraged from contacting police for help because service was slow.

“I work with Victoria Police and have found all police officers extremely hard working and dedicated. But if the number of officers posted and the minimum number of officers required do not match, then it is obvious that the police force will be under pressure,” he said.

MrSidhu said the lack of police meant some problems in the community were not being tackled.

“Drag races at night are a major problem. Many senior citizens who otherwise like to go for walk are now too scared,” he said.

“Many residents say their sleep is disturbed. I can cite an example of a mother with a newborn, who had to sleep in a small room at the back of the house instead of in the master bedroom because of the loud noises from the drag racing,” added MrSidhu.

Labor Shadow Minister for police Wade Noonan repeated the opposition’s assertion that while the government had cut $100 million funding from Victoria Police, crime was increasing every year.

“Most Victorians would be shocked to learn that while crime increases across the state, Denis Napthine has reduced the number of police on the beat in their local area,” Mr Noonan said.

He said there were 22 fewer police assigned to the Wyndham service area today than in 2010—with 106 frontline officers in 2010, compared to 84 today.

The FOI numbers released by Labor stated criminal offences increased 14 per cent from 2010/11 to 2012/13.

Minister for police Kim Wells’ office put out a media release saying the figures did not properly reflect police resources in Wyndham.

They went on to say that the 2014/15 budget included the biggest ever spend on crime fighting, with $2.43 billion for Victoria Police, 6.7 per cent more than in the previous year.

“Labor should know, the Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police is independently responsible for making decisions as to where additional officers are located,” the statement read.

As well as having more police at police stations, the Chief Commissioner has allocated additional police to important areas such as family violence, organised crime, outlaw motorcycle gangs, illicit drug manufacture and distribution and road policing, the minister’s office stated.

22 fewer police assigned to the Wyndham service area today than in 2010

106 frontline officers in 2010, compared to 84 today
20 per cent fewer frontline police officers in Wyndham today than three years ago

Published in The Indian Sun (Indian Magazine  in Australia)

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