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30 October, 2023

Associations call for regional crime inquiry

It is not too often the Country Mayors Association, Police Association, and NSW Farmers join together for a public show of collaboration and unity.

By Andrew Tarry - Local Government Reporter

However, this collaboration has recently occurred with the organisations have agreed to join forces to call for a parliamentary inquiry into crime, law-and-order in rural and regional NSW. The organisations are asking the government to take the rise in crime seriously as a recent assessment of crime statistics by the Country Mayors Association (CMA) provided a shocking and unsettling view of law and order in regional NSW. 

“We knew crime was increasing, but we looked to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data to clarify the situation. We were shocked to learn that as well as the alarming incident counts in regional NSW, the rate of incidents per 100,000 people was, in some cases, horrifying when compared to metropolitan figures. Up to 90 per cent of crimes including vehicle theft, breaking and entering, sexual assault and domestic assault are happening here, in our regional communities,” said CMA president Jamie Chaffey.

According to the CMA, an annual survey conducted by the association revealed that crime and law and order is now in the top five emerging issues for NSW local governments. The president for CMA has argued that a report produced by the CMA and endorsed by the Police Association of NSW (PANSW) and NSW Farmers “paints a very clear picture” of a law-and-order crisis in regional communities. 

 PANSW president, Kevin Morton said the association supports the call from the CMA for an inquiry. “The report shows that additional police resources are needed to manage crime rates and ensure communities could be effectively serviced,” said Mr Morton. NSW has less police per head of population than Queensland, Victoria, and South Australia. With only one police officer per 467 NSW residents.

“Our regional police officers are expected to be the 24/7 problem solvers. Police in these regional and remote locations are required to attend emergency situations that cover huge geographical areas with limited staff and resources with little to no back up. When they do call for assistance, it can be an hour away or more,” said Mr Morton. 

The PANSW president cited that outdated rostering models, such as rostering police officers based on one car per job per hour, minimum staffing levels in region- al and rural areas, and police officers required to pick up the workload of other government departments needed to be scrutinised. The NSW Farmers are also voicing their concerns. CEO Annabel Johnson said that although the organisation’s primary concern was for crimes against farming businesses, the report revealed an opportunity to do more to protect everyone in rural areas. 

“This report is concerning, and we would absolutely support a proper review of where police resources are allocated to protect every community and business regardless of where they are in the state. A 2020 survey of farmers found that 81 per cent reported being a victim of farm crime – theft of livestock and equipment, trespass, break and enter, and illegal hunting, and this is a significant risk to safety,” Ms Johnson said.

The joint effort has not been submitted to the government with three organisations stressing the need to take the findings of the report seriously.

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