Shoalhaven Police Numbers
|About this Item||Subjects||Crime; Police: New South Wales
||Speakers||Hancock Mrs Shelley
||Business||Private Members Statements
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK (South Coast) [4.37 p.m.]: I again highlight crime and antisocial behaviour in the Shoalhaven Local Area Command. I have raised the lack of police numbers in the Shoalhaven for almost the entire time I have been a member of this place. In my office I have burgeoning files and letters from constituents regarding the serious and disturbing incidents occurring in the villages and towns of my electorate. During the past 12 months in particular I have become more and more concerned about the ability of local police, given their inadequate resources, to deal with crime in the area. Frankly, I am sick and tired of calling for more police. I am horrified at the continuing stories of crime and antisocial behaviour, which seems to be getting much, much worse.
Every day, every night and every weekend I read reports in the local media of serious incidents of crime in the Shoalhaven and about elderly residents living in fear. Apparently, the geographical nature of the Shoalhaven—the relative isolation of many of the towns and villages and the distance from Nowra Police Station—is not understood by the Iemma Government. Unfortunately, it seems that villages such as Culburra Beach, Callala Beach, Callala Bay, Huskisson, Sanctuary Point, Sussex Inlet and others are now experiencing unprecedented levels of youth crime. The simple fact is that there are too few police in the Shoalhaven to address the problems, and the law does not provide police with sufficient powers to exercise control over young people. In the time available I want to read onto the record some of the comments from residents and community groups in the South Coast that graphically describe what is going on. An extract from a diary of Sanctuary Point residents in February this year reads:
The last four Fridays have been unbearable with youths rampaging, yelling and disturbing the peace. Drinking, yelling youths imitating police with a possible megaphone so loud that every neighbour rang the police.
A resident of Callala Bay writes:
Over many months now teenagers have been roaming the streets from around four in the afternoon until two and three in the morning. They shout obscenities at one another and hurl insults at any resident who tries to get them to move on. They have absolutely no regard for anyone else and their aggressive actions have some residents fearing for their lives. "Thugs" have literally taken over the streets.
An extract from a letter to the Minister for Police, as yet unanswered, from a resident in Culburra Beach, on behalf of her 87-year-old mother, states:
Large gangs of young boys and girls some as young as 14 or 15 are holding the town to ransom. Just last Saturday night in a drunken spree they damaged my mother's letter box for the 6th time, invaded the yards of residents where they sat drinking, tore down a fence, attacked each other with palings, threw a brick through the window of another elderly woman's home, threw a letter box through another window, broke bottles, damaged road signs and other public notices.
A community group in Sussex Inlet writes:
We have received various verbal complaints about antisocial behaviour of young people in the town particularly on weekends. They report one complaint of a resident who reported young bicycle riders riding in the middle of the night leaving the footpath and riding in front of moving cars causing them to brake quickly to avoid a collision. I am also aware that this is a common occurrence in Sussex Inlet with young bicycle riders blocking bridges and preventing drivers from reaching their destination.
This is just a small but very representative sample of some of the concerns raised by residents. I have called for, and will continue to call for, more police in the area, recognising that this Government commits to increased police numbers only at election time, in the interim years driving police numbers down. That is the reality of its attitude to police numbers. Its record on police numbers and ineffective legislation to combat youth crime in particular is leading to an inability of our hard-working police officers to deal with everyday challenges, such as I have described today. The Carr and Iemma governments have never been serious about law and order, and the Minister for Police is simply missing in action on policing issues in the Shoalhaven. On behalf of all residents, once more I call on the Minister to allocate an additional 30 officers to the Shoalhaven area command and support police in this State.
In 2003 we had 137 officers. Ever since we have been hovering between 129 and 132, when the Government's target—that is, authorised strength—is 121, that is, 16 fewer officers. One of the questions I continue to ask is: If the Government purports to have a policy on increasing police numbers to record levels, why does it have such large peaks at election times and troughs in between? The clear policy of the Government is to drive down police numbers between elections. I note that the honourable member for Monaro, who must be worrying about issues of crime and police in his electorate, is laughing about this situation. It is a pity he does not support his local police.