Scully pooh-poohs police concerns
By CRAIG McTEAR
POLICE Minister Carl Scully has brushed aside concerns over policing in Coffs Harbour.
The Coffs Coast Advocate on Thursday detailed claims the force was overstretched locally, that morale was down and that stress levels were up.
One source said the Coffs/Clarence Local Area Command had the highest number of police (at least 35) on long-term sick leave in northern NSW, and that highway patrol resources were sparse.
When asked to respond to the issues raised, a spokesman for Mr Scully said according to the latest available figures, actual police numbers in Coffs/Clarence were 194, which was 27 above the command's 'authorised strength'.
"I am advised that just two officers are on long-term sick leave in the command as of January, 2006," the spokesman said.
"The State Government has had a massive recruitment drive since 2002/2003, attracting 3667 new officers by December 2005. The next class of 153 trainees will graduate on Friday (yesterday).
"The Government has lifted authorised police strength to a record level of 14,456 officers from 12,907 under the (previous) coalition government.
"Six weeks ago, the Premier and the Minister announced that we would raise authorised strength to 15,206 by January, 2007.
"This means officer num- bers would have risen by almost 18 per cent since we came to office, compared with a population growth of 10.5 per cent.
"The real measure of successful policing is reflected in the crime statistics.
"Figures from the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) for the three months to December 2005 show that crime in the Mid North Coast district fell in two major categories and remained stable in 14 others.
"The categories which recorded a drop in crime were break and enter (dwelling), down 15.9 per cent, and motor vehicle theft, down 22.3 per cent."
Coffs/Clarence local area commander, Superintendent Peter Barrie, said morale in his command was high.