Latrobe police numbers at capacity

LATROBE Police Service Area has “never before” had so many police members serving the area, with more than 210 working exclusively within Latrobe, says a top cop.

Speaking to The Express following the release of the latest quarterly crime statistics on Friday, Latrobe Police Service Area Inspector Mick West said they had “filled all the empty spots”, allowing resources to be devoted to ongoing operations.

“We are expecting more (members) over the next 12 months; the public will see us out there more and more,” Insp West said.

Recent My Place crime statistics showed the Latrobe PSA had seen an overall increase over the past 12 months, with crimes against the person rising most significantly by 32.3 per cent per 100,000 of the population.

While Insp West acknowledged it was a worrying trend, he said it was also due in part to the immediate impact of the Family Violence Unit launched in March.

“We expected to see a rise (in the figures) as the unit is proving to be effective,” he said.

Another area of concern was a rise in robbery offences, which rose 62.7 per cent over the past year most which Insp West said related to youth assault incidents against people offenders knew, as well as petty crimes.

Over the next three months, Insp West said there would be at least four major operations on and around public transport and transport hubs.

“Another specially-targeted operation would be street patrols; there will be covert patrols as well,” he said.

“The message we want to get out is ‘you may not see us, but we will be watching’, and we will focus on the four major towns of Moe, Morwell, Churchill and Traralgon.”

Going into the school holidays, Insp West said foot patrols would also be increased around shopping centres.

“There will be a blitz on unruly behaviour on streets and in public places,” he said.

On a positive note, total burglary rates in Latrobe PSA declined during the quarter, with theft of motor vehicle offences reportedly decreasing by 23.4 per cent.

Statewide, the overall recorded crime rate increased by 4.1 per cent per 100,000 of the population, bringing the total up by 20,246 offences or 5.6 per cent from last year.

Most notably, crimes against the person and drug offences were up from the previous year.

However, Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said in a statement crime rates were driven predominantly by family violence related crime.

“We don’t yet know if societal factors – such as financial pressures generated by the changing economic factors – are also impacting on our total crime,” Mr Lay said.

“But what we know with certainty is that with the arrival of an additional 1700 police and 940 Protective Services Officers, our ability to detect offences is only going to increase, so we fully expect to see our crime statistics continue to rise in the coming months and foreseeable future.”