Fifteen new police needed for Coffs

COMMUNITY safety is at risk unless Coffs Harbour gets at least 15 more frontline police, according to local Police Association members.

But Coffs/Clarence Local Area Commander, Mark Holahan, said things couldn't be further from the truth.

NSW Police Association Coffs Harbour branch chairperson, Brad Jackson, spoke out yesterday after long-running negotiations to decrease the workload on over-worked police officers reached a stalemate.

“At least 15 additional general duties police officers are needed in order to maintain community safety in the area,” Mr Jackson said.

“Police in Coffs Harbour are operating well below their recommended staffing levels and have been for some time now,” Mr Jackson said.

“NSW Police has trialled numerous first response agreements – minimum policing numbers required on each shift to respond to calls for assistance – with no success. What we need is more police on the ground.

“Per capita, we're in the top 10 for all major crimes, but we've got no extra resources – we need a review system reinstated that can determine what officers are needed in what command.

“The Police Association's first priority is to ensure that the local community is safe and protected by a properly resourced local police force.

“Both police and the public need to know that police are in a position to respond quickly, efficiently and safely to calls for help from the community.

“We need adequate police numbers so that we can respond to emergencies as they arise and conduct proactive, high-visibility policing that helps reduce crime.”

But Mr Holahan said community safety never has, or never will be, put at risk.

“Since December, 2007, crime within the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command has fallen and continues to do so. At the same time, we have been able to increase our arrest rates and increase our proactive operations,” he said.

“For the past three months, in agreement with the Police Association, we have been trialling a First Response Agreement based on agreed parameters with the NSW Police Force and the NSW Police Association.

“During the conduct of this trial period, which meant workloads, not one breach of the agreement was reported to me.

“There have been no issues where community safety has been put in jeopardy, nor will there be, and the NSW Police Force has a strong commitment to this area.

“The trial first response agreement and our achievements to date are a strong indication that we have continued to deliver a high class service and maintain community safety.

“Any commander would welcome an increase in police numbers.

“My role as a commander is to challenge and improve the way we police.

“We have been able to find a mix of predictable and unpredictable police strategies that continue to reduce crime.

“We have achieved this in the Coffs/Clarence LAC by the community actively reporting minor crimes to the Police Assistance line, which has freed up valuable police time and enabled us to increase proactive operations and increase our arrest rate, assisting our efforts to reduce crime.”

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