IN response to the recent increase in anti-social behaviour and crime in the area, our local member Ryan Smith has launched an initiative in an effort to increase police numbers and operational hours for the Warrandyte police station.
A petition for the proposed change has been dispersed across multiple local businesses to gauge public perspective on the matter.
“I have had a number of constituents contact my office with concerns about the operating hours of Warrandyte police station and the low numbers of police stationed there,” Mr Smith said. “Warrandyte police station is not a 24-hour station and, at its full complement, has only seven police officers. Of course they are not all there at the same time but are spread out over the week’s shifts.”
Through launching the petition, Mr Smith is able to see if the wider Warrandyte community also share the view that an increased police presence in Warrandyte would be beneficial. With more than 550 signatures in less than a week, it appears the answer is a resounding yes.
Mr Smith said the rising number of crimes in the area has contributed to the community’s concern and has essentially fuelled the initiative. Several homes and local businesses have been broken into in the past few months alone, including Ruby Tuesday, Warrandyte Café and Quinton’s IGA.
“With the increasing population and this perceived rise in anti-social behaviour, there really should be more police and more operating hours,” Mr Smith said.
Julie Quinton – owner of Quinton’s IGA and advocate of the petitions – is hopeful the petition achieves its goal. After her store’s recent break-in she is led to question the level of safety in our town.
“I don’t think anything’s completely safe anymore and that’s always a worry,” Julie said. “We’re not immune from [criminal activity] here in Warrandyte, but I think people have often thought that we are immune – but we’re not.”
Julie said her No.1 priority as a storeowner is the protection of her staff and any initiative to support that is worthwhile in her eyes.
Once a significant number of signatures are attained, Mr Smith intends to take it to parliament.
“The aim of the game is to raise it in parliament, make sure the minister knows that my community wants to see some action,” Mr Smith said.
“A petition in parliament needs to be seen as serious and there’s not a finite number required, but the more names and signatures there are then the more the government should understand that there is a real need.”
“The government hasn’t demonstrated a real interest in the Warrandyte community which is unfortunate. But these things are about making as much noise as possible and if you can keep raising it in parliament, it gets to the point where the government has to give you a reason why they’re not acting, and sometimes that’s the thing that’ll push things along,” he added.
Mr Smith understands it’s ultimately the chief commissioner of Victoria Police who determines where police resources go. However, making the minister aware of the issue can lead him to direct the chief commissioner to where he believes resources are needed.
“I anticipate that the minister’s formal answer will be the allocation of resources is up to police command. However, we know that the minister has directed Victoria Police to place additional police in Bellarine, a marginal Labor seat.”
While most locals have responded positively to the petition, others have questioned if those measures were necessary.
“At the end of the day, my job is to be the voice of my community and one of the reasons why the petition’s out there is for me to gauge if there is more support for this out there then just a few anecdotal comments that I’ve heard or the emails that I’ve got,” Mr Smith said. “So my answer to people who would ask if it’s really needed – well I’m going to have a lot of signatures that say we do and my job is to make sure that those people are heard.”
To support the initiative for increased police numbers and hours, sign the petition at Quinton’s IGA, the Warrandyte Community Bank or other participating businesses in the area.