Business leader expresses police merger concerns

Mudgee Chamber of Commerce president Greg Dowker (right) has written to Police Minister Troy Grant expressing concerns about the potential police LAC merger.
Mudgee Chamber of Commerce president Greg Dowker (right) has written to Police Minister Troy Grant expressing concerns about the potential police LAC merger.

Mudgee Chamber of Commerce president, Greg Dowker, has written to the NSW Police Minister to express concerns about the potential merger of Mudgee and Orana (Dubbo based) Local Area Commands.

At least four existing NSW regional LACs are expected to be merged into two new, bigger LACs as part of the NSW Police re-engineering process.

Mr Dowker explained in the letter, the Chamber understands the “possibility of improved efficiencies”, but outlined concerns for the community.

“Currently, the Mudgee region enjoys one of the lowest recorded crime rates in the state, thanks largely to the good work of our police. As such, our community benefits in many additional ways from a more relaxed lifestyle, attraction of new residents, to reduced insurance premiums,” the letter explained.

“This proposed merger will mean that we will be incorporated into the Orana LAC, which carries one of the worst crime statistics in NSW. Despite assurances that it is the intention to report crime statistics by LGA’s the existing reporting methods are well entrenched, our inclusion in the Orana LAC will have a detrimental effect on the Mudgee region, the very least of which will be high insurance premiums at a time when the general costs of living are increasing.”

Mr Dowker said Chamber members were briefed by members of the NSW Police Association at a meeting on October 9.

“They were positive about the most recent proposals that would see our superintendent, crime manager and administration manager positions replaced with an additional two general duties officers. We note, however, that they were unable to confirm that this will be adopted or simply a consideration.”

Further concerns were raised about the ‘long-term prospects of policing in our town’.

“Mudgee is a thriving regional centre that will require additional police resources as we grow (particularly if we are to maintain existing low crime rates). If our superintendent is based in Dubbo, it is difficult to accept that future resources will be allocated to Mudgee when Dubbo and surrounding towns are already under-resourced and suffer from high crime rates,” Mr Dowker said.

“Could you please explain what assurances will be put in place so that Mudgee will not be worse off under these proposed changes, both now and into the future. ”

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TROY GRANT’S RESPONSE

NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has responded to the letter from Mr Dowker explaining, “the re-engineering of the NSW Police Force (NSWPF) by the Commissioner of Police is designed to bring additional focus to frontline policing and crime prevention across the NSW community”.

“Re-engineering reforms will enable the NSWPF to better prepare it to protect the community into the future by putting a stronger, more refined focus on providing a tailored service to all communities throughout our state,” Mr Grant explained.

“The NSWPF and NSW Government both agree that each area in regional NSW has its own unique challenges including crime trends, population density and growth and community needs. The process of re-engineering has recognised this and thus the Re-Engineering Taskforce together with the NSWPF executive are currently redesigning a new framework under a District Command structure. It is expected that an announcement on the new model will be made in the coming weeks.”

Addressing the issue of crime statistics, Mr Grant has assured the community and business leaders that, “as the statistics are published by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) and based on Local Government Area boundaries, the reporting of statistics would remain unaffected by any changes to the NSWPF”.

Mr Grant has described the re-engineering process as “long overdue” and a “positive step for our community’s safety”.

“Although the current policing model has worked well for some 20 years in some circumstances, it has grossly disadvantaged some country areas with respect to resource allocation. With the advancement in technology and crime the current model no longer meets the needs of our community and needs to be addressed. The NSWPF is streamlining the structure of the organisation to put more boots on the ground and ensure police officers have the capability and flexibility they need to respond to crime, major events, emergency management, and most importantly meet local community expectations now and into the future,” he said. 

Mr Grant reiterated the unconfirmed changes are in, ‘no way about cutting officer numbers but about enhanced community safety and ensuring our officers are where they are needed most’. 

“Re-engineering will deliver more police on the streets throughout the NSW community targeting and disrupting crime, and preventing new and emerging crimes.”

NSW Police are expected to release details of the changes in the coming weeks, but Mr Grant explained it has been a long process.

“Deputy Commissioner Worboys and Assistant Commissioner McKechnie first met with Mid-Western Regional Council in August to discuss the process and that Deputy Commissioner Worboys also provided a presentation at a later date to our local council,” he said.

The NSW Police Minister went on to praise Deputy Commissioner describing Gary Worboys as having a ‘strong voice’ for the regions.

“Deputy Commissioner Worboys is a voice for enhancing and protecting policing resources in our community. I’m confident the Commissioner together with Mr Worboys are working together to ensure regional NSW has a police force that is flexible, nimble, well-resourced and best placed to address current and future policing needs.”

On Thursday, Mr Grant was joined by Western Region commander Geoff McKechnie and Deputy Commissioner Worboys to announce a second regional enforcement squad (RES), based in Tamworth. In the letter to Mr Dowker, Mr Grant explained the specialist squads will tackle mid-level crime such as domestic violence, property-related offences and drug supply.

“As Minister for Police and NSW Member of Parliament representing the residents of the Mudgee region, I’m confident the re-engineering of the NSWPF will provide our community with the tailored policing services it deserves.”