CESSNOCK ELECTORATE POLICING
Mr KERRY HICKEY
(Cessnock [1.07 p.m.]: Today I again speak about crime in the Cessnock community, which is a serious issue. Many members of the community are concerned about drug-related violence and about alcohol-free zones, especially in the Cessnock central business district. I have been informed that the owners of licensed venues are not adequately controlling their patrons, in particular, in the central business district. Recently an incident occurred due to the inability of security officers to analyse and control drinkers at a specific venue. Brawling broke out and patrons continued their fight across the main street of Cessnock, which resulted in the closure—twice in two weeks—of Vincent Street, an issue about which all community members are concerned. Because police have not held the licensee accountable, and he is not abiding by liquor licensing laws, this type of behaviour is being repeated across the community.
I spoke to another licensee of a Vincent Street hotel who is concerned about this police inaction. On a number of occasions that licensee contacted police about members of a family in Cessnock who refuse to leave the premises, or who continually try to enter the premises after closing time. Police informed the licensee that they were not interested in attending the premises as no crime had yet been committed. The licensee was also informed that he would have to wait until there was a major cause for concern before police would attend a scene. The police must be proactive in carrying out their duties.
Some time ago I raised in this House the issue of drugs in my community. The police have been proactive in this area with the use of drug detection dogs in some of the hotels. But why do they use the drug detection dogs at 6.00 p.m.? Everyone knows that the establishments are not fully operational until 8.00 p.m. or 9.00 p.m. I am concerned that the drug detection dogs are not used at a later hour. The Cessnock community is tired of violent behaviour, drug-related crime, antisocial behaviour and crime generally. The community is being told constantly of a downturn in crime. The community questions such statements when faced with the high level of incidents that occur across town, many of which are not reported. There is a lack of interest in reporting: people believe that if they report an incident nothing happens so they do not bother. As the local member I am sending out a message that every crime should be reported so that we have extensive statistics and these issues can be addressed.
I am extremely concerned about the level of violence at particular establishments in the main street of Cessnock. As I said, on two occasions a portion of the main street has been closed because of brawling. Why has this been allowed to happen? Why are the establishments involved allowed to continue to trade? The police should close down the establishments for a period to send a clear and concise message to the whole community that they will not tolerate this type of behaviour in the Cessnock area. The community of Cessnock is not above the law. We must ensure that the law is enforced. It seems that the police are not keen to address these issues. We also must look at the penalties that are handed down in the local court system. The time has come for the courts and police to publicly address the community's concerns.
Many constituents come to my office complaining about the lack of police numbers. The police claim that they are working harder and delivering more. My community says that the opposite is occurring. The court system must deliver the appropriate outcomes for my community. As an example, the penalties imposed on members of one family in the Cessnock community, who have appeared before the court system on numerous occasions, show that the courts have let down our local community. I request that the local area commander address the issue of law and order in the Cessnock electorate by stopping brawling in the CBD and closing down the establishments where such lawlessness is taking place.