Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 11 Hansard (22 October) . . Page.. 3936 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
was dedicated to Operation Anchorage, and early on it was very successful in identifying and apprehending some of the most active burglars in the ACT.
However, a few weeks into Operation Anchorage, the report by the Institute of Criminology notes, it was necessary to suspend the operation of some officers who had already worked excessive overtime associated with arrests so that they had time to complete inquiries, investigation and the paperwork to deal with the detainees. The administrative work that Mr Pratt's motion says police should be doing less of was clearly necessary. It is not possible to detain indefinitely without trial alleged offenders that have been arrested. So there is no avoiding the paperwork required to secure a conviction.
We can't just arrest people and put them in remand without doing the follow-up work of making sure that the evidence is gathered, that the administrative work is done, so that when they come to court the police case is there and ready and that, if a person is convicted and goes to jail, that actually happens. Someone has to do this administrative work, and I doubt it would be successful to outsource the administrative work because it is so intimately related to the on-the-ground policing work. The police who make the arrests are best placed to do the administrative reports that lead to the court processes.
I fear that Mr Pratt's motion is actually calling for longer periods for people to stay on remand without actually going through the court. That, I think, is something that we actually need to be working on to reduce. People spend a lot of time in remand, from the time they are charged to the time that they actually go through to court and conviction or non-conviction, as the case may be. That has led to a number of problems in our remand centres. I think clearly it is something that needs to be addressed, and moving police away from administrative duties will actually make that situation worse.
To return to the question of the effectiveness of increased policing: the same report by the Australian Institute of Criminology showed interesting figures on a longer-term effect of those intense policing campaigns, such as Operation Anchorage, Operation Chronicle and Operation Dilute. Although the initial impact on the incidence of the targeted offence is significant, as soon as the pressure is lifted from that particular offence, crime rates return to prior levels within one to two months. This is because pursuit of arrest and convictions does not address the cause of the crime. Only ongoing prevention and diversionary programs will do that.
Do we have enough police? The implication of the motion before us today is that Mr Pratt thinks that we do not, and I note that the number of police per thousand head of population has not changed significantly over the last number of years. I also note that the per capita spending on policing in the ACT is very close to the national average, which suggests that we may have a higher level of resources since it is cheaper to police a smaller area than a larger area.
I have had complaints from constituents that they have had problems trying to contact local police stations and have not had their call answered, and I agree that this is of great concern. When you call the police service, as when you call a fire service or an ambulance service, you do expect to have your call answered and you do expect a response. That is something that we have all been brought up with.