POLICE NUMBERS OKAY: Coffs Clarence Area Commander Supt Matt Holahan.
POLICE NUMBERS OKAY: Coffs Clarence Area Commander Supt Matt Holahan.

Enough police to cover crime

BELLINGEN’S business operators have been told the real level of crime in the town is much less than what is perceived by the community.

They’ve also been told they need to play their part in reducing crime and particularly the problem of underage drinking.

The Area Commander for the Coffs Clarence Local Area Command, Superintendent Matt Holahan, told a chamber of commerce breakfast yesterday the current level of local police resourcing – nine officers stationed in Bellingen, Urunga and Dorrigo – matched the demand as indicated by the number crimes that are reported.

Responding to reports that a lack of high profile policing was the cause of unacceptably high levels of anti-social and youth crime in the town he said if crimes aren’t reported then from a police perspective they didn’t happen.

“We need the community to tell us when crime happens. If the issues are real then they will be addressed,” Mr Holahan said.

“As the area commander I can’t allocate more resources if the statistics don’t support the claim.”

Mr Holahan surprised many at the breakfast with monthly statistics showing only a relatively low level of criminal activity in the town.

“Police intelligence gathering and planning has never been better but we need the community to play its part. And we need the community to understand that for us to be there when crime happens we might have to close our stations at Bellingen, Urunga and Dorrigo at different times.”

In asking for the community’s assistance he conceded police needed to change their ways.

“Policing in the valley has become very predictable. We need to combine predictability with unpredictability to keep people on the back foot,” he said.

Mr Holahan said the situation in Bellingen was the same and no different to that in Coffs Harbour, Yamba and Grafton.

“The impact of alcohol in the wider community is just starting to hit home. If we didn’t have alcohol we would need just half the police resources we have now. The biggest problem of them all is when young people drink alcohol and indulge in risky behaviour.”

He said it was beyond the resources of police to stamp out underage drinking

“The core responsibility of police is to reduce crime and reduce the fear of crime. We are not social workers. We don’t cure social ills, we enforce laws,” he said. “Until parents are made vicariously responsible for the actions of their children nothing will change.”

The breakfast concluded with talk of community and youth forums to confront the issues of alcohol and anti-social behaviour and police reiterating the need for people to report crime by calling 131444.

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