Rural Police Numbers
|About this Item||Speakers||Glachan Mr Ian
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mr GLACHAN (Albury) [5.33 p.m.]: At 8.00 p.m. on 11 February I attended a public meeting at Henty Bowling Club called by Mr Ross Edwards, President of the Yerong Creek Bowling Club. It was held at Henty as this is regarded as the area's geographical centre. The meeting gave people the opportunity to express their grave concerns about escalating crime in country areas between Albury and Wagga Wagga, such as Gerogery, Culcairn, Henty, Walla Walla, Pleasant Hills, Yerong Creek, Lockhart and The Rock. The meeting was also attended by my parliamentary colleague the honourable member for Wagga Wagga, serving police officers from Albury, Wagga Wagga, Henty and Holbrook, and about 200 concerned local residents.
There have been break-ins at small businesses, preschools, schools, hotels, supermarkets, churches, service stations and clubs in the area, and local people are most concerned for both their personal safety and the safety of their property. Thieves have taken equipment and tools from many farms—on one occasion a powerboat was stolen from a farm shed—and Ross Edwards called the meeting in response to general concern about these serious thefts. Yerong Creek Bowling Club, of which Mr Edwards is President, sustained $2,000 worth of damage when thieves broke into the premises. Mr Edwards was the victim of theft when his vehicle was stolen from a garage in Henty. It was reported that a Canadian backpacker broke into the garage at night and started a car without a radiator, causing the engine to seize. He then caused a lot of damage in the garage and stole Mr Edwards' utility, drove it through a door and then to The Rock, where he attempted to break into a club.
People are concerned that, although police are stationed in towns such as Henty, Walla Walla and Culcairn, they are often called upon to work shifts in Albury or Wagga Wagga, where officers are in short supply, and thus cannot attend to local matters. Police must also attend court or may be on leave or on courses designed to upgrade their policing skills. This takes them away from their stations and they are unable to protect local people and property. The 200 or so people who attended the meeting complained not about the police—in fact, they expressed their gratitude for the work of the police in their areas—but about the shortage of officers and the fact their numbers are not replenished.
Police numbers in Albury are said to be at full strength. Although on paper many officers are based in that city, a considerable number are not available to be rostered for work as they are on maternity leave, sick leave, attending courses and so on. So although it is claimed that Albury police station is at full strength, that is certainly not the case. Even big centres such as Albury and Wagga Wagga have only a small number of police on the front line—particularly at night—and there are not enough officers to deal with major incidents. Officers are often absent from towns such as Henty, Walla Walla and Culcairn.