3 December 2021

Cops and bloggers: online reporting proposal no substitute for more police

| Ian Bushnell
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ACT police

Police resources are tight, says CPO Neil Gaughan. Photo: File.

ACT Policing’s plans to not attend certain property crime incidents such as break-ins, but expect victims to post a report online for police to follow up, should be met with the incredulity it deserves.

It is well-known that Canberra’s contracted police service is hard-pressed to keep pace with a growing capital. Just talk to the residents of the new suburbs of Molonglo or Gungahlin, who complain in vain about break-ins and hooning and lack of police visibility.

Just because such antisocial behaviour doesn’t make it into the crime statistics doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

The thin blue line is just that, with the police union saying Canberra is short about 200 officers.

Either the new approach is the brainchild of some well-meaning bureaucrat, or perhaps Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan is being crafty and tossing out a broad hint that he needs to bolster the ranks.

Information is short about the criteria for the police turning up or not, but it seems the online reporting option will be limited to offences such as vandalism, minor property damage and minor burglaries.

READ ALSO Efficiency or a ‘green light for criminals’? Police to phase out attending some property crimes

For someone who has found the door kicked in, their privacy violated and property pinched, how minor is minor?

The CPO also mentioned occurrences when there is a lack of forensic evidence, but how will police know that without being there?

Turning civilians into community crime bloggers also puts an undeserved burden on people who may be traumatised or lack the skills to deliver a useful or complete report.

The CPO assures us that the new approach will free up resources to focus on more serious crime and life-threatening matters and give officers more front-line exposure.

He admits that resources are tight and this would be a more efficient use of officers’ time.

But what kind of message does this send to the community, and criminals, no matter how minor?

The compact between police and the community is vital to maintaining law and order in a civil society. This sort of triaging will only undermine that trust and leave many wondering whether reporting a crime is worth the hassle.

That may be good for crime stats, but that only creates an illusion of calm in our suburbs.

Missing in action has been Police Minister Mick Gentleman, who did not respond to our questions.

READ ALSO Late lawn mowing, poor parking: frivolous triple-zero calls spark ACT police warning

Opposition police spokesperson Jeremy Hanson called on Mr Gentleman to come out of hiding and explain how and why this change was made.

“Frankly, this a direct result of the fact that there are not enough police in the ACT, as has been stated repeatedly by me and by police themselves, and I call on the government to focus on community policing and give police the resources they and the community need,” Mr Hanson said.

Canberra may not be the crime capital, but it has its fair share of violence, poor behaviour and unnerving violations of people’s sanctity at home.

The move to online reporting was described as one of many “modern ways” to improve community reporting of minor crimes.

But many would prefer some old-fashioned police on the beat they could tell their stories to rather than a police website.

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What is actually being lost here? They would generally only turn up hours or days after the fact anyway and seldom solved anything or got your stuff back. Everyone can still claim on insurance, just like you could last week. It’s blatantly obvious that this is a tantrum from the cops because they didn’t get additional funding -make the statement that will cause the most outrage without actually impacting anyone.

William Newby10:00 am 03 Dec 21

What the public aren’t told is just how many AFP officers are actually allocated to policing the ACT, this number is falsely inflated in most reports when the Commissioner double counts his sworn officers serving out of the ACT, and those officers assigned to national/federal roles while sitting behind a desk here in Canberra.

In any event (even with the false reporting) we have the lowest ratio of police officers per capita in all of Australia.

An additional 200 officers would only stem the bleeding; you can only juggle and bluff the public for so long, it gets bloody tiring! most frontline officers don’t last 7 years anymore. Those that do often switch to become the root cause of the very problem, promoted into roles that demand data manipulation to achieve a ‘result’.

Vehicle thefts and property break-ins often leave a pattern, and frequently leave evidence (their are no ‘cat-burglars’ here in the ACT!).

To be directing the public to just log your details on our web site and then call your insurance company is the laziest policing idea that we will ever see! ~ Name me one other State that would tolerate such rubbish?

Our top politicians (include the AFP top brass) should all hang their heads in shame, knowingly selling us a plan that will fail.

Soft judges appointed, police that will no longer turn up, increased ages for criminality, decreased sentences (proposed), there has never been a better time to become a professional criminal in Australia’s capital!

Well said Ian, and please keep asking that so-called Police Minister to explain himself.

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