Two of Canberra’s fastest-growing areas need a greater police presence including their own stations to combat rising levels of crime, a Legislative Assembly committee has been told.
Both the Weston Creek and Belconnen Community Councils have told the Standing Committee on Justice and Community Safety in its Evaluation of Current ACT Policing Arrangements that police were taking too long to respond to reports of criminal activity and population growth warranted new police stations in Weston or Molonglo, and Kippax.
Both were concerned that police numbers were not keeping up with population growth and required a permanent presence.
Weston Creek Community Council chair Tom Anderson said his community relied on the Woden Police Station, which at any one time is staffed by only six officers, a sergeant and two administration staff.
”That’s not a lot [of staff] to cover the Woden Valley, Weston Creek and Molonglo,” he said, saying residents were more likely to see Protection Officers than actual police.
Mr Anderson said community feedback had been that police response times were slow.
“It seems to take forever to get police there,” Mr Anderson said.
He told the committee that crimes such as burglaries, theft, including vehicle number plates, property damage and dangerous driving were on the rise across Weston Creek and the new suburbs of Molonglo.
‘Hooning’, in particular, was becoming more prevalent. The WCC says in its submission that complaints about dangerous driving are growing and some recent high-speed injury crashes could have been avoided with a greater visible policing presence to deter such behaviour.
Mr Anderson said many crimes were going unreported, particularly complaints from migrants or people with little English.
Many residents were happy to post their concerns on social media but not tell police, something the council was trying to change.
Mr Anderson said the council was urging people to report all incidents so police had an accurate idea of how much crime is happening in the district.
”We are trying to encourage people to report crime to the police,” Mr Anderson said. ”Every crime is reportable because we need to provide police with a base [level of demand in the region].”
He said the 69 extra police promised last budget over four years would not keep pace with the ACT’s population growth.
”We need the extra police now,” he said.
Belconnen Community Council chair Glen Hyde told the committee that a new station at Kippax, if only as a shopfront at first, was a no-brainer.
He said response times were an issue, as was police numbers.
”Belconnen has grown in a proportionate rate compared to the rest of Canberra and our policing profile hasn’t always done so,” he said.
The BCC says in its submission that Belconnen will soon have 110,000 residents and that visitors to work or play boost that to more than 150,000.
”As our transport and urban infrastructure grows, so too should our community protection and safety infrastructure grow and improve.”
It says that as the Kippax centre expands, the BCC expects extra police resources to ”enhance protection of the community and act as a direct deterrent to criminal activity”.
”Currently, response times to West Macgregor and Ginninderry under normal conditions are in excess of 10 minutes, but under emergency response protocols that time drops under 10 minutes,” the BCC says.
”We believe that a presence at Kippax would greatly reduce response times to any area west of Kingsford Smith Drive to less than half the time taken from the Winchester precinct.”