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Time to admit growing Canberra has a crime problem and the thin blue line is stretched to the limit

By Ian Bushnell 10 January 2018 31

The armed robbery of Lanyon Vikings Club on 2 October last year. (still from CCTV footage)

Yet another small supermarket has been held up at gunpoint, this time in North Lyneham on Friday. It adds to a growing catalogue of similar crimes, often involving a firearm, being committed across Canberra.
Service stations, suburban shops and community clubs all seem to be soft targets for desperate offenders and organised criminals.
Even my local post office/newsagent in Rivett became a crime scene late last year when a masked gunman menaced the manager and bashed him before making off with cash and firing a warning shot when followed.
Just down the road in Goodenia Street, Bobby Stuart Allan staggered to a front door for help after being attacked but died there on 17 December.
Throw in the violent feud between Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs that has seen people and properties shot up, homes and cars torched and bashings across the southern suburbs and you have a picture of Canberra very different to the glossy CBR utopia promoted to the rest of the country.
OK, it may not be Gotham City but a stretched ACT Policing could use a caped crusader or two, or at least a few more cops on the beat, in a city that seems to have rising types of crime along with its higher population.
Statistics from the ACT Policing 2016-17 annual report show an increasing tide of armed robberies and burglaries, and declining clean-up rates in those areas.
In 2016-17, there were 121 armed robberies and 112 other robberies for a total of 233, compared with 185 four years ago. There were 2,522 burglaries, up from 2271 in 2012-13.
If you commit an armed robbery, the odds seem increasingly in your favour that you will get away with it, with a clear-up rate of just 25.6 per cent.
Police do much better when it comes to assault, but violence is also on the rise with 2,941 assaults, including sexual, in 2016-17, up from 2,243 in 2012-13.
The Australian Federal Police Association says Canberra has seen the fastest population growth anywhere in Australia in the past five years and yet police numbers across the ACT have not increased.

It says the annual report is a wake-up call for the Government, accusing it of being asleep at the wheel about the increased demands on policing services.

“Our stations are grossly understaffed and I am genuinely concerned about what effect this shortage is having on my members’ safety and mental wellbeing,” a spokesperson says.

“The recent data in the ACT Policing Annual Report 2016-17 shows us in black and white that there have been significant increases in all assaults types and robberies. That means more people in the ACT in the past year, have been victims of kidnapping, robbery offences and assaults at home.

“It’s unacceptable, the public expect and deserve to feel safe when moving around our city.”

If policing numbers were not addressed immediately, the Association fears that the increases seen recently are just the tip of the iceberg.

ACT Policing has responded as best it can, creating a task force to deal with aggravated burglaries and Taskforce Nemesis to take on bikie violence. But despite bringing some offenders to court, the suburbs are still being terrorised by bandits with guns, as well seeing as some daring robberies such as the Casey Market Town ram raid in which the culprits made off with an ATM. 

The clubs in particular have been targeted, with the two armed men forcing their way into the Mawson Club on Christmas Eve, threatening the manager and security guard and fleeing with cash. In October the Lanyon Vikings Club was robbed at gunpoint for the second time in four months while in September the Raiders Club Belconnen was hit.

The Raiders Club Weston, which had already been a victim of a similar heist to the Mawson Club in May last year, only avoided another robbery in December when the staff sealed the glass doors. The would-be bandit left but not before firing a shot into the doors.

And in Fyshwick on 30 December, two men attempted to steal a safe through a window at the Dominos pizza store, before escaping in a stolen van and ramming police cars in their getaway.

No doubt about it – there are some serious villains at large.

And while the anti-terror budget seems to be unlimited, the people of Canberra might well ask, what about keeping our suburbs safe from crime that is actually happening and on the rise?

More active police muscle, as opposed to desk-bound officers, would be a good start, as well as helping the desperate and the losers in Canberra’s success story.

Do you think Canberra has a growing crime problem? Will more police help? Is security too lax in our clubs? Share your thoughts by commenting below.

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31 Responses to
Time to admit growing Canberra has a crime problem and the thin blue line is stretched to the limit
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James Hodgson 8:53 pm 23 Jan 18

and this is the reason the junky scum next door can keep dealing drugs, its happening right now, but nothing gets done if its reported

A_Cog 11:58 am 16 Jan 18

… and I encourage readers to go to the first comment in the thread (mine) where I argued that policing is just one link in the process for law and order, peace and security. The jail is really important too, as a way to reduce numbers of offenders continuing to offend after getting jailed.

Or, as is the case for the ACT’s “human rights compliant” jail, coming out meaner and more addicted than before they went in, as today’s media shows:
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/convicted-killer-allegedly-stabbed-inmate-in-face-at-canberra-jail-20180112-h0hd7u.html

Futureproof 1:20 pm 13 Jan 18

Catching crims cost money in court costs and jailing of crims. It easier to raise revenue by catching the average Joe speeding

Robert Warn 12:45 pm 13 Jan 18

Yes. More police policing crime.

Julia Bocking 7:49 am 13 Jan 18

there are other solutions than more police officers

David Murn 5:19 am 12 Jan 18

Isn't there some sort of computer camera they can use to stop crime.. just like the red light cameras stopped traffic accidents?

Werd Harrington 1:46 pm 11 Jan 18

Less traffic cops and more real cops

Mike of Canberra 12:05 pm 11 Jan 18

Let’s have a look at Canberra shall we. We have an undisciplined welfare problem in this city, with soft public housing policies helping attract more “marginalised” people to the ACT. Where’s there’s passive, non-aspirational welfare there’s poverty and where there’s poverty, there’s crime. Our poorly managed public housing population continues to be located in most parts of the Territory, thus placing a potential crime problem quite close to most of us.

You’re quite right to point to the need for more “cops on the beat” but there’s two problems. First, ACT Policing is likely to join a host of normally high municipal and other priorities that face severe funding constraints, all in the name of funding Light Rail, a major project without any discernible business plan and thus highly likely to be a significant loss maker. Second, even when our highly stretched police bring the villains to justice, they’re likely to receive little more than a slap on the wrist from our human rights-obsessed court system.

When ideology supplants everything else, you’re highly unlikely to get good government. It was obvious at the 2016 ACT Election that this increasingly was the situation with our Territory government, but we returned them anyway. Therefore, we only have ourselves to blame. Until Canberrans grow up politically, there’s little point moaning about it.

Garry John Dyson 8:24 am 11 Jan 18

Stop paying politicians pensions then you might be able to afford more police.

John Moulis 8:20 am 11 Jan 18

Anybody who has visited Sydney (or even Queanbeyan) would know that the police presence in Canberra is poor – nay almost invisible – by comparison. Police are almost everywhere in NSW, walking or driving through Canberra you would be forgiven for thinking that we have a police force at all.

I’m not saying that we should saturate the streets with police officers, but a more visible and upfront presence is surely needed. I think the last time I was stopped for an RBT was in 2012 whereas whenever I visit Sydney I get one all the time.

I know many people think that we don’t have a crime problem in Canberra and we don’t need the level of policing that Sydney does, but that is merely false bravado and it is clear that as the population expands we need a more high profile and conspicuous police presence on the streets of this city.

bigred 8:18 am 11 Jan 18

So we have a jurisdiction smaller in population than some regions in the States and ecpect it to be able to provide state type services effectively. Policing, like health and education will never be efficient or effective when it is required to service such a relatively small population.

The policing function is complicated further, because the local yocals have no real control over how the delivery is organised and it seems the constabulary is comprised of members either more interested in being in another jurisdiction or they are being shoved towards the exit. The level of servicing one gets if needing to deal with them is more a function of who is assigned to the task than anything else. And remember, it is the police who also decide who will be their Minister, not the Chief Minstrel.

When we finally realise we, as a community, do not have the critical mass to deliver state type functions we can fibally move forward.

Jeff Gadd 9:12 pm 10 Jan 18

The Police are doing a great job apprehending criminals however the punishments do not fit the crimes. Crims laugh all the way to the 5 star resort AMC masquerading as a prison. Past time to rethink punishment and methods of incarceration.

Joanne Clark 8:16 pm 10 Jan 18

Put the police out on the streets, remove them from the office. Engage trained civilian staff to do paperwork, man the station. Make policing visible again.

    Clare Vidler 9:13 pm 10 Jan 18

    The problem is numbers. There is plenty of volunteer unsworn staff but at the end of the day tgey just need more cops.

    Steve Ulrich 9:29 am 13 Jan 18

    Clare Vidler I would suggest less response squads and more patrol squads would be a demonstrated path first, before asking for more funding.

Jason Watts 7:39 pm 10 Jan 18

Refocus police attention towards crime prevention over revenue raising and you have a credible solution.

Harley Ward 7:25 pm 10 Jan 18

People seem to think this place was fine before social media. Its aways been a problem just not advertised.

Tracy Gorman 6:43 pm 10 Jan 18

Of course Canberra has a problem.. you only have to look at the amount of burnt out stolen cars all over the place. You only need to look at the various Canberra pages on Facebook to see how many cars, trailers, bikes, tools.. anything they can get their hands on.. are stolen. The amount of violent attacks.. the list goes on.

This isn’t the Canberra I grew up in. Society has changed that.

Wade Bermingham 6:12 pm 10 Jan 18

or a community focused bikie gang nothing like having your legs broken by 30 large men with baseball bats to make you rethink robbing the local drinking establishment

Trace Hawker 6:09 pm 10 Jan 18

What I hate is the police do their job and catch the perpetrators, then the courts give them a slap on the wrist.

A_Cog 3:49 pm 10 Jan 18

ACTP are the worst police force in Australia. The Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services (Volume C, Chapter 6) shows ACTP have the lowest rate of solving crimes (called 30 day outcome of investigation) in the nation – by a mile! Trawl back through previous years and take a look for yourselves. And don’t be lazy and stop at p22, go all the way to the attachments in the back and look at tables 6A.31 etc.

88% of offences never lead to a prosecution.

But the “human rights compliant” jail matters too. Because we have the worst cops, the jail is even more important in the rare circumstances where offenders are jailed to protect the community. But… ACT has highest rate of recidivism – again, by a mile. So JACS changed its metrics last year to avoid ROGS comparisons! And we have the most expensive jail per capita, the ACT Auditor General shredded its operation in 2015, about 30% of inmates are on methadone compared to near zero for other jurisdictions… escapes, deaths, overdoses, overcrowding, organised crime has penetrated the jail fully. But with a Green jail minister, we don’t recognise the human rights abuses feeding recidivism. Ditto juvenile detention.

Then we’ve got the underfunded and overstretched Public Prosecutors, the NDIS disintegrating (psychosocial disabilities includes schizophrenia + meth addiction which is a common constellation for offenders, so if the ACT Govt does nothing to fix the broken NDIS it matters for ACT crime), declining public housing availability (housing eases offence drivers), ACT NAPLAN results in freefall (a good education and good attendance are fundamental diversions for future offenders)…

The ACT has the illusion of security, and things have been declining for some time.

    Tooks 1:29 am 11 Jan 18

    When you show a complete lack of understanding of stats you are quoting, then cherry pick others to suit your anti-police agenda, it really harms your credibility.

    You neglected to mention ACTP is the most understaffed Police force in the country. You also fail to mention magistrate court cases where the defendant pled, or was found guilty. You failed to mention any number of other areas where ACTP are performing on par with, or better than, other states.

    I’d suggest everyone read the productivity report for yourselves and you will see ACTP overall is nowhere near the worst.

    Honestly, people would be amazed at how few police are patrolling at any one time.

    A_Cog 8:59 am 11 Jan 18

    The one metric over all others that shows how good a job the police do is 30-day clearance rates. Do cops solve crimes or not? No other stat gives as much information about police. Further, a whole bunch of stats are irrelevant (my personal “perceptions” of crime are not a function of how safe my city actually is).

    Every other police force is twice as good (or better) at investigating a crime, identifying a perpetrator, and then progressing a brief to prosecution through the DPP.

    “Understaffing” is no excuse for failing to prevent crimes or failing to solve them after they occurred. Magistrates court outcomes are not purely an indication of police investigations, they are an indication of the DPP being given a brief good enough to secure a conviction.

    buzz819 12:17 pm 11 Jan 18

    So I am looking at that chart right this second. Yes, ACT Police has the lowest, well equal lowest with NSW for Sexual Assault, and the lowest for Armed Robbery but top 3 or 4 for Motor Vehicle and unlawful entry… So in all, probably about dead middle, and that is only in 30 days, what about 60 or 90 days? Why doesn’t it show that?

    They have on average the least amount of complaints and the people who deal with them are happy with there service.

    A_Cog 3:24 pm 11 Jan 18

    Sorry to be dismissive, but complaints against ACT Police are no indication of how good they are at catching crims, which is the primary purpose of cops.

    I won’t go through each ROGS for 1995 to 2017, but here is a quick taste of tables 6A.31 and 6A.32:

    In 2015:
    only 7% of ACT rapists went to court. For the rest of OZ, it was between 12% and 40%.
    only 5% of ACT armed robbers went to court. Rest of OZ was between 30% and 50%.

    In 2014:
    only 12% of ACT rapists went to court. Rest of OZ was 11% (NSW) and 50%
    only 14% of ACT armed robbers went to court. Rest of OZ was 25% and 65%
    only 12% of ACT unarmed robbers went to court. Rest of OZ was 27% to 65%
    only 2.5% of ACT burglars went to court. Rest of OZ was 5.5% to 24%
    only 3.3% of ACT car thieves went to court. Rest of OZ was 4.8% to 24%
    only 3.1% of ACT thieves went to court. Rest of OZ was between …

    So when I say “the ACT Police are the worst police force in Australia”, what I mean is, the ACT Police are the WORST police force in Australia. We should ask NSW to do the job coz the AFP just aren’t up to it. There’s a massive budget saving for the tram right there.

    But keep a holistic view. The jail is a fundamental component (also a disaster), NDIS and gap services (two more disasters), ACT public housing (ditto), ACT education (double ditto)…

    buzz819 5:09 pm 11 Jan 18

    Again 6A.31 and 6A.32 are 30 day status. Why is the magical 30 day the number?

    I must be looking at a different table to you, because the one from PC.GOV.AU says that 32.6% of sexual assaults were finalised with an offender being proceeded against – or sent to court.

    And armed robbery is at 55%…

    What those figures are saying is, in 2015 ACT had 219 sexual assaults, in 30 days 21% were finalised within 30 days with no result and 32% were finalised with an offender being proceeded against. It is the lowest, but only just under NSW.

    Burglary – 80% finalised with an offender.

    Motor vehicle theft – 77% finalised with an offender.

    So I think you need to go back and look at your figures, because they are just wrong.

    A_Cog 10:12 am 12 Jan 18

    Buzz, you’ve misunderstood the stats. The s-x assault stat means that of the ACT’s 219 s-x assaults in 2015, only 21% of these had investigations finalised, and of these 21%, only 32.6% were provided to DPP as prosecution briefs. So only 15 of the 219 alleged s-x assaults went to court (that’s less than 7% for an offence where the victim is far more aware of who the perpetrator was, either personally, or are able to provide ID details to assist cops investigate).
    Your burglary stat of 80% is off too: only 3.1% of the 2,480 burglars in 2015 were ever identified, and of these, only 61 went to court. Other jurisdictions identified between 7% and 29% of burglars, then prosecuted 76% to 98% of them.
    Car theft: only 4.5% of reports were “cleared” (finalised) and of these, only 3 in 4 went to court.
    The ACTP have the WORST clearance rates in every category for every year (with very rare exceptions), and they also have the worst rate for advancing a cleared investigation to court.

    The AFP / ACT cops do a terrible job of making the ACT safe… and THAT IS WHY all the other components matter so much more – but these other components are ALSO the worst in the nation too (ACT has the highest rate of recidivism, the NDIS was tested here first and fell apart immediately but nothing has been done, the Australia Institute is urging an inquiry into the ACT’s schools coz they do so badly…)

    Stuart Hartley 9:47 am 13 Jan 18

    Asking NSW to takeover the policing in the ACT is a bit of furphy because it will never happen. The ACT shire council will never go down that path because the NSW Police will treat the ACT as just another mid sized LAC with a Superintendent in charge of 4 Police Stations with the requisite number of cops.

    Stuart Hartley 9:40 am 13 Jan 18

    ACTP is understaffed because of an absence of planning and future proofing by ACTP and its lord and master, the AFP. Experienced cops cost more and you can get a lot of inexperienced cops by encouraging the expensive ones to retire early or move on. When you let finance and HR drive your business to the detriment of your core business and employees don’t cry when you don’t like the result.

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