Police: Valley ‘not alone’ in crime surge

THE Derwent Valley was not alone in its experience of a surge in property crimes in recent months, a recent community meeting was told. At the invitation of Derwent Valley Council mayor Michelle Dracoulis, acting inspector Tony Stewart of Tasmania Police addressed a meeting of about 30 people at the New Norfolk Bowls Club.

Cr Dracoulis said there was concern about a recent increase in arson, theft, graffiti and anti-social behaviour. Insp Stewart said these incidents were not unique to New Norfolk and the Derwent Valley and were being experienced across southern Tasmania and in the north as well. He urged anyone affected by crime or witnesses to it to report all incidents to police to enable the full picture to be understood.

In response to questions he said the New Norfolk Police Station’s roster had two vacancies and he was hopeful of those being filled in the near future by two experienced officers who had relocated from the mainland. He said the Bridgewater police division had also been allocated two additional officers and one of those would be posted to New Norfolk. He said New Norfolk was presently allocated 14 police officers, which was five more than a decade ago.

Responding to complaints that the New Norfolk Police Station was not routinely open to the public, Insp Stewart said he would investigate why there wasn’t a person there to open it during the day. However he said he was not personally in favour of police officers sitting behind a desk when they could be out in the community.

Insp Stewart said New Norfolk received overnight support from the Bridgewater station and it was unlikely New Norfolk would become a 24-hour station. He said that police had responded to 343 “jobs” between August 1 and 31, with only 39 of those being between midnight and 8am. The meeting heard from the Derwent Valley Salvation Army that it had been unable to provide overnight shelter for the homeless because of the lack of a 24-hour police station locally.

In response to a question from former mayor and past parliamentarian Tim Morris, the inspector conceded that work could be done with the roster to potentially disrupt criminal activity by having local police officers on duty at times when they were not generally expected to be working.

An issue for many at the meeting was a lack of information from police. “It would be nice to know we haven’t been forgotten,” said one person who spoke during the meeting. Insp Stewart acknowledged the need for victims of crime to know how investigations were proceeding. “We should be telling you what is happening,” he said.

Insp Stewart spoke about what he called “target hardening,” including the use of alarms and cameras. He said alarms served as a deterrent and cameras provided evidence.

Picture: Derwent Valley Council mayor Michelle Dracoulis and some of the people who attended her community meeting on crime.

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