Can’t cop one . . .

The Tatura Guardian - - News - By Sion­nie Kelly

Murchi­son peo­ple have voiced their con­cern that the town has re­ceived lim­ited po­lice cov­er­age since Vic­to­ria Po­lice in­tro­duced new safety mea­sures for of­fi­cers last month.

Murchi­son is one of 105 po­lice sta­tions across Vic­to­ria with a sin­gle of­fi­cer.

Sin­gle po­lice of­fi­cer sta­tions are com­mon across the Goul­burn Val­ley, with other towns such as Dookie, Vi­o­let Town, Rush­worth, Stan­hope, Ton­gala and Tungamah also hav­ing one po­lice of­fi­cer.

Cale­do­nian Ho­tel owner Garth Thompson said polic­ing at Murchi­son had changed since Vic­to­ria Po­lice in­tro­duced the new safety mea­sures to pro­tect of­fi­cers.

‘‘We don’t have a po­lice pres­ence over night time,’’ he said.

‘‘You need that pres­ence to stop peo­ple get­ting any ideas.’’

Mr Thompson said be­fore the safety mea­sures came in, he felt com­fort­able call­ing on the lo­cal po­lice of­fi­cer to do a walk through of his ho­tel if he no­ticed any ‘‘shady’’ night time cus­tomers.

‘‘It elim­i­nates any prob­lems if you have the lo­cal bloke around,’’ he said. ‘‘We’re pretty lucky here, we don’t have much trou­ble, but ev­ery now and then you get an out­sider com­ing in.’’

Mr Thompson is not alone in think­ing there needs to be a stronger po­lice pres­ence at night time.

‘‘I do be­lieve the whole com­mu­nity is dis­ap­pointed,’’ Murchi­son Bak­ery and Tea Rooms owner Janene Burt said.

Ms Burt said the sit­u­a­tion was con­cern­ing be­cause if there was a crime overnight, back-up aid had to come from Shep­par­ton or Tatura.

‘‘It’s re­ally quite over­whelm­ing that as a small town we’re quite at risk, along with other small towns,’’ she said.

‘‘(But) we’re pretty lucky, I be­lieve we don’t have a lot of crime in Murchi­son.’’

Ms Burt said it was im­por­tant the town’s po­lice of­fi­cer re­mained safe, but if back-up was de­layed or did not come for an emer­gency, then ev­ery­one was at risk.

Murchi­son Su­per Value Cen­tre owner Glenys Pear­son said po­lice safety had to be a pri­or­ity.

‘‘We would cer­tainly like to have bet­ter cov­er­age, but with bud­get cuts and re­stric­tions, that’s not al­ways pos­si­ble,’’ she said.

Ms Pear­son said it was not un­ex­pected that a small town such as Murchi­son would only have one po­lice of­fi­cer, but that of­fi­cer’s pres­ence was needed.

‘‘You cer­tainly need a big­ger po­lice pres­ence in sum­mer when there’s more peo­ple around in gen­eral,’’ she said.

Vic­to­ria Po­lice spokes­woman Lisa Beechey said the mea­sures were in place to en­sure the safety of po­lice of­fi­cers while they worked to keep the com­mu­nity safe.

‘‘The new pol­icy states that po­lice must not per­form pri­mary re­sponse du­ties, such as in­ter­cept­ing ve­hi­cles, con­duct­ing field con­tacts with sus­pects, or re­cep­tion du­ties in a po­lice fa­cil­ity on their own,’’ she said.

‘‘How­ever, po­lice mem­bers who are at­tached to a one mem­ber or non-24 hour po­lice sta­tion who con­duct a risk as­sess­ment with their su­per­vi­sors may be ex­empt from these rules.

‘‘At Murchi­son, mem­bers are per­mit­ted to work ‘one-up’ with ap­pro­pri­ate risk assess­ments, which has al­ways been the case.’’

This means the Murchi­son po­lice of­fi­cer can work alone at night pro­vided a sec­ond po­lice of­fi­cer is avail­able for back-up if the risk as­sess­ment de­ter­mines the need for it.

Ms Beechey said Murchi­son con­tin­ued to have a 24-hour po­lice re­sponse and the safety mea­sure would re­main in place.

‘‘The new pol­icy has not re­sulted in ‘less polic­ing’ in the com­mu­nity, and the lo­cal com­mu­nity should be as­sured that our com­mit­ment to keep­ing the com­mu­nity safe re­mains as strong as ever,’’ she said.

Pic­ture:

Con­cerned: Bert Kear­ney, Sue O'Ma­honey, Janene Burt and Garth Thompson.

Julie Mercer

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