As calls for a Parliamentary Inquiry into crime, law, and order in rural and regional New South Wales gain momentum, Dubbo Regional Council's deputy mayor Richard Ivey has expressed his belief that simply hiring more police won't effectively address the complex issue.
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The Country Mayors Association of NSW joined forces with the Police Association of NSW (PANSW) and NSW Farmers to call for a Parliamentary Inquiry after the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) showed residents of rural, regional and remote NSW were more likely to be sexually assaulted, have their cars stolen, have their homes broken into and be more likely to be impacted by domestic violence.
The latest crime figures show there were 575 break-ins to homes in Dubbo in the 12 months to June of 2023.
The BOCSAR data puts Dubbo break-ins at 4.5 times the NSW average, when comparing per 100,000 people.
Councillor Ivey emphasised the importance of a multi-faceted, collaborative approach involving various government agencies and local communities in addressing the issue.
He believes that it's imperative to understand the nature of crime, its root causes, and how it can be reduced all while incidents are fresh.
"It needs to happen almost while there's a crime issue and while it's still pretty current," he said.
Cr Ivey proposed a model where local communities work closely with agencies such as the police, corrective services, juvenile justice, and the parole board, as they all have a stake in addressing crime.
He argued that this approach would enable communities to analyse the specifics of each incident, share information, and develop strategies for preventing future occurrences.
This real-time, collaborative approach could lead to more effective crime prevention.
Regarding the call for more police in the regions, Cr Ivey said in his view the focus should be on improving the effectiveness of the existing police force rather than solely increasing numbers.
"I suppose you can never have enough police in that sense, but I just think the police, by and large, do a pretty good job, but it just needs to be more effective," he said.
He acknowledged that police officers often face limitations and constraints in their roles, and suggested increased consultation with communities and other agencies could help overcome these challenges.
"I think in Wellington there might be one or two police vacancies, but I think we have been hearing about it and had a full complement of police and I don't think that the lack of police is necessarily the problem," he said.
PANSW president Kevin Morton said the report showed that additional police resources were needed to manage crime rates and ensure that communities could be effectively serviced.
"Our regional police officers are expected to be the 24/7 problem solvers," Mr Morton said.
"Police in these regional and remote locations are required to attend emergency situations that cover huge geographical areas with limited staff and resources with little to no back up. When they do call for assistance, it can be an hour away or more."
Mr Morton said that staffing levels and resources needed to be re-evaluated to reflect contemporary requirements for policing in regional and remote areas.
"Minimum staffing levels must be improved in regional and remote areas where police stations do not operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.
Mr Morton said that police officers were required to pick up the workload of other government departments, which also needed to be scrutinised.
"Police officers are spending hours transporting prisoners hundreds of kilometres across remote areas to correctional facilities, while other government departments close their doors once business hours are over and shift the workload onto our already stretched front line workers," he said.
"This is not our job and is taking police officers away from serving their communities."
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