Members of the Weston Creek community have raised concerns about why it took a murder in the area for police to start patrolling again as debate was reignited over policing resources in the ACT.
Murrumbidgee MLA Jeremy Hanson said members of his community in Weston Creek and Molonglo said they had not seen a police presence in the area for many years until the skate park murder at the end of last year.
“Anecdotally, there seems to be an issue with incidents in my neck of the woods,” Mr Hanson said during Committee Hearings on Thursday (25 February).
“When the incident occurred in the skate park … all of a sudden police started appearing in Weston Creek and the view from the community was, finally we see some police, we have not seen police around here for years, it takes a death to see police around here.
“Obviously putting police on the ground following that incident, for whatever reason, it matters to the community to have police out there to prevent and respond quickly.”
Chief Police Officer Neil Gaughan said that ACT Policing resources were allocated and reallocated appropriately following incidents and trends across the Territory.
“We will adapt as things emerge and that is what the community expects. It is a juggling act, I am not going to sit here and say that I am flushed with resources and I have the ability to be everywhere at every time,” he told the Committee.
“We had a very serious murder in Page over the weekend and that has had an impact on our crime resources and we have had to manage that as well.
“If you ask any Police Commissioner across any jurisdiction if they want more numbers the answer is yes, but the reality is we have to operate within a certain budget and we do that in a very constructive way.”
An additional 23 police officers graduated from the academy on Friday (26 February) and will be operational in three weeks.
The equivalent of an additional 70 full-time police staff was also included in the ACT Budget.
Crime in the ACT went down last year but will be viewed as a statistical anomaly due to COVID-19, Mr Gaughan said when questioned on whether crime rates were increasing.
“The other thing that links to increasing crime in any area is that issue of population growth, the fact is that as Molonglo continues to grow in population we are going to see an increase in reportable crime.
When questioned about whether the number of police officers has been appropriately keeping pace with population growth, Mr Gaughan said “it gets back to the whole issue of we need to do things smarter with what we have got”.
“It is very difficult to compare the Territory with any other jurisdiction in the country because our population is fairly compacted to a very small part of the Territory,” he said.
“I always hear people talk about the numbers of police in a place like Tasmania but the fact is it is three hours between their biggest cities, here it is literally 10 minutes and I can move patrols around very quickly.”
Mr Gaughan said that the strategic plan looking at police resourcing will help determine the right amount of police stations and their locations across Canberra to best respond to incidents.