ACT residents will soon be required to self-submit a report online when they are victims of certain crimes, including house burglaries, as part of a “phase-out” designed to achieve more efficient use of officers.
Speaking on ABC Radio, ACT Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said that the phase-out, which will occur over the next 12 months, will mean an online reporting system replaces an officer attending the home.
He conceded that ACT Policing will be “less responsive” to some property crimes, especially when there is a lack of forensic evidence available.
CPO Gaughan argued that the move will give officers more front-line exposure for high-end crimes which he proposed was a more efficient use of officer time, proclaiming that “resources are tight” within the organisation.
He pointed to the effectiveness of other similar technology used in the ACT to report historic sexual assaults, and stressed that officers would still attend incidents in which offenders are found in real-time.
Shadow Minister for Police Jeremy Hanson was less convinced by what he described as an “extremely concerning change”.
“This is not what the Canberra community expects from their police force. It is not what the police want and it is not what we need to keep Canberra safe. This sends a green light to criminals who will know a certain level of crime may not even receive a visit from police,” Mr Hanson said.
“I call on the Minister to come out from hiding and explain how and why this change was made and how it will impact Canberrans, especially those in disadvantaged groups who are most often victims of small property crimes.
“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,” he said.
An ACT Policing spokesperson said that the move to online reporting was one of many “modern ways” being explored to improve the community reporting process for matters such as vandalism, minor property damage and minor burglaries.
“Of course, we will always maintain our triple-zero and police assistance phone lines, but we are considering options such as online reporting,” said the ACT Policing spokesperson.
“Ultimately, online reporting will provide convenience for the community, and will allow police to better respond to incidents where immediate police assistance is required.”
As to what it will mean for victims claiming on insurance for stolen items, managing director of Allinsure Peter Chamberlain said that the changes are unlikely to have a significant impact on the claims process, indicating that incidents such as single-vehicle crashes and theft of tools are often dealt with through an online report.
Mr Chamberlain did, however, suggest that it placed a lot more responsibility on people who are not trained in reporting crimes.
“You go from having a professional there walking you through the process who has attended hundreds of these events and will know what to look for, versus the responsibility being yours to identify what was there and what’s not there now,” he said.
“Having a police officer there with you, after what’s been quite a traumatic experience, would obviously provide a lot more reassurance from both an emotional and mental point of view and would be a far better outcome.”