Page 2184 - Week 07 - Wednesday, 22 June 2005

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He has said that the ACT property crime reduction strategy for 2004-07, among other things, includes a particular focus on targeting repeat offenders. Mr Hargreaves has also said, “I can assure you that the ACT government is committed to having an appropriate level of policing which focuses on law enforcement, crime detection and prevention.” Those claims are all very well and good, but when it comes to examining the real issue—police strengths and capabilities, and the ability to protect the community—the minister is all smoke and mirrors.

Let’s look at the situation now with ACT Policing. Firstly, the latest annual report claims that significant drops have occurred in major crime activities. If these statistics are a balanced representation, that is welcome, although I do note that organised crime is identified as a growing problem in the ACT and region. The minister claims that crime rates have dropped and continually talks about crime statistics to prove how productive ACT Policing is. He continually claims that these statistics are the true and only measure of performance. Statistics are questionable and are well known in various jurisdictions around the world to be easily manipulated to frame the favourable picture that bureaucracies want to tell their governments and, in turn sometimes, some governments want to tell their constituencies to gild the lily.

Given other figures and statistics, many from questions on notice put by me and others to the police minister, there are major contradictions with the ABS and Productivity Commission statistics that have been presented by this government to support its case that all is hunky-dory in respect of community safety. That is very interesting, but it begs the question about accuracy, given the community feedback about crime levels and disruptions to life.

More importantly, community concern about safety, particularly in relation to the lower bands of violent and destructive crime, which do not feature in mainstream statistics in any meaningful way, has been steadily growing for some years, but not entirely because of government policy. I believe that a lot of it is reflected in national trends of growing crime and public disorder, and the ACT is not immune to such a disease. But government policy also has to share a deal of responsibility because the government is not interested in fighting crime with vigour.

Burnouts, hooliganism, assault, intimidation, car offences, vandalism and graffiti are clearly on the increase because our police force is invisible. It is invisible and the community recognises that. I welcome the spate of recent arrests and confiscations of cars of burnout and street racing offenders, but it was only after two years of inaction and a good deal of community outcry that any effective action was finally taken. Even worse, armed assaults and hold ups have been on the increase, particularly in the second half of 2004.

In a three-week period in March 2005, 22 armed assaults, hold-ups and ram-raids in the ACT were reported in the media, and those were only the ones that were reported. This is happening because ACT Policing is invisible; we do not have a substantial policing presence. Consequently, criminals are more emboldened and desperadoes are out there feeling fairly confident that they can act with impunity. Often it is the vulnerable and the weak who are the victims and the ones ignored by this government.

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