Public gives angry thumbs down to closure of police counter

p2403 Danny Bacon OK

 

By ERWIN CHLANDA

 

“We’re on the verge of a revolution.”

 

“Alice Springs is going to explode.”

 

“Every year, over 15 years, it got progressively worse.” Applause.

 

“000 response times are 20 to 30 minutes. When you stand alone, what do you do next?”

 

“We have seven sliding bolts on every door. We are imprisoning ourselves in our own home. In three years in town we were broken in five times, had three cars stolen and made 30 reports to the police.”

 

“The little bugger on the other side won’t be breathing.”

 

Compared to the law and order discussions of previous years, a tipping point seemed to have been reached at last night’s meeting: “We don’t have time. It’s just not happening. We must hit the fast forward button,” as one enraged man put it.

 

Few – if any in the crowd of 150, mostly white and middle-aged– dissented.

 

p2402 Di LoechelPolice Acting Assistant Commissioner Danny Bacon, the top cop in town, was in the chair as well as the person responding to the angry crowd.

 

Finally the police were consulting the people of Alice Springs about whether or not to close, to the public, the door of the police station for 12 hours every night.

 

The answer was an unequivocal “no” from those gathered in the Andy McNeill room (fittingly Mr McNeill was a former mayor and senior police officer).

 

However, Commander Bacon hinted last night, and confirmed today, that the feedback from the meeting would be “taken on board” and a decision on a “pathway” would be the subject of “further information”. After this, in about two weeks’ time, the issue of the night closure would be put before the public again.

 

The key points at the meeting started with an apology from Commander Bacon for not having adequately consulted the public, nor the police officers involved in the proposed closure. He then blamed social and other media for inaccurate reporting on the issue.

 

While asserting the move was aiming at putting more cops on the beat (“more front line officers”), instead of “behind walls in the police station,” the numbers he gave were rubbery: “Between one and five” extra coppers would be deployed outside, said Commander Bacon.

 

Speakers in the crowd, attached to the world-wide notion that the police station is the place you go when you’re under threat, took no comfort from assurances by Commander Bacon: There would be a bell and an intercom outside the locked door where people could get assistance in the same way as making a 000 call, speaking first to an interstate call centre, then to a Darwin-based despatch centre.

 

Given the notorious delays of response to 000 calls (“you may as well ring Russia”) the meeting reacted with a mixture of amusement and anger to that prospect. Commander Bacon conceded that there are a lot of complaints: “We’re not walking away from it. We’re trying to address it.”

 

When several speakers pointed out to Commander Bacon that crime had gotten worse, he claimed that commercial break-ins had risen but residential ones had gone down: “We’re doing not too bad statistically.”

 

“You tell that to the people,” replied one speaker as the crowd booed.

 

Commander Bacon said the police force is not the only agency that deals with crime, especially juvenile crime, with sharp spikes over the summer holidays. Moves to a collaborative approach are under way.

 

“We are not going to arrest us out of this,” he said.

 

p2402 Kay EadeAs the meeting extended from the scheduled one hour into a second one, and as people were beginning to leave, topics ranged far and wide from the theme of the evening.

 

• Rocks will be removed from Anzac Hill so they can’t be thrown at cars.

 

• We need a think tank, looking forward rather than to the past.

 

• Judges give offenders a slap on the wrist.

 

• Comment from a man about children being taken home by police: “The parents are not at home. They don’t give a shit. The kids are running rings around us. It’s a cat and mouse game.”

 

PHOTOS (from top): Commander Bacon at last night’s meeting • Speaker Di Loechel (at right in the photo) said people from “satellite communities” come to Alice Springs with no respect for the town and its rules of conduct, while expecting visitors to their own bush communities to observe the culture and traditions there. “Happy days, do what you like,” seems to be the message the children are getting, whose take-out is clearly, I am too young, they can’t do anything to me. We are politically stifled by Don Dale and possible class actions, said Ms Loechel: “We are teetering as a society. We can’t live that way any longer. We are on the verge of revolution.” • Kay Eade says the public should insist on the use of provisions in law about victim impact statements and restorative justice: You break a window you pay for it and clean it every week. “Let’s make our voices heard in the courts.”

 

 

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9 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Posted January 22, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    @ Ron Willis. In reference to the disorder caused by excessive alcohol consumption in the Kalgoorlie CBD, Woolworths have issued a statement to the ABC after criticism from the Mayor that they were implicated in over-supply.
    It was reported that Woolworths “would reach out to WA Police and employ a full-time security guard for its Kalgoorlie BWS store.”
    Nice to see a local government initiative in the grog wars.

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  2. Roger Bisby
    Posted January 22, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Greetings from “the” outback of the USA!
    “Worse? in the past 15 or years or so???” Corresponds to the Aussie gun ban (Confiscation).
    But here in the mid-west (“See Outback”), the same problems exist. Despite 70,000 plus firearms laws there is still gun violence or in your case “armed robbery” with a half of cricket bat, lead pipe, and I think a shovel.
    The dispatch times here are 35 to 45 minutes for the local sheriff to respond, and they take NO action unless it is dead, bleeding, or a horrific traffic accident.
    Calling 911 (your equivalent of 000) might get the response “we’re busy!” or other similar.
    It is aa “I don’t give a rats’ ass!” response.
    Regional Dispatch does not one darn thing to expedite needed contact with the local emergency services.
    It is actually faster for us to drive to a petrol station “Quickie Mart” and find three or more patrol vehicles parked there.
    Does someone answering your calls, in Darwin, actually possess knowledge of the local area, or do they relying on some computer map, that may or not be accurate of the surrounds?
    Of course, not! This aside I really liked the time spent in Alice, sort of a Jewel in the Desert! Neighbourhood watch programs and community policing are the better options.
    Best regards, Roger.
    Independence, Missouri USA.

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  3. Ron Willis
    Posted January 21, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Good to see Di Loechel speaking out against the trouble makers that come to town.
    Unfortunately a lot of those troublemakers don’t become trouble makers until they purchase alcohol from Di Loechel’s Gapview Resort bottleshop and all the other bottleshops across town.
    Then it becomes an inferno of swilling grog so rapidly that the bloke sitting next to him misses out on his turn.
    Then it is on for young and old to find more grog desperately that they break in anywhere anytime just to fuel the obsession.
    If the Governments, both Federal and Territory, were serious then they would spend a million dollars buying back take away alcohol licenses across town.
    Sure you won’t beat Coles, Woolies and the main pubs but there is no need for there to be so many outlets.

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  4. James T Smerk
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Do Bottle-o shops pay for the police presence?
    Just curious as I would think they should be paying, which might save us some coin.
    We shouldn’t be giving them free policing when they make mass profit from this town.
    They are saving by not employing security as they should.

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  5. Dave
    Posted January 20, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    Every time a treasurer hands down a State or Territory or Federal budget, funding for NGOs, Aboriginal organisations and government departments is slashed.
    The only funding that isn’t cut and is often increased, is funding for police services.
    I’ve seen police patrolling on camels, horses, motorbikes, mountain bikes, segways, every toy they can get their hands on.
    I’m predicting mini hot air balloons and unicycles are next.
    If closing the police station is a financial issue, they should just ask the government for the money because they’ll get it.

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  6. Steve Brown
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Sure, the Assistant Commissioner has a great argument, staff under-utilised, sitting around the station, staff that could be used to put more patrols on the street.
    Yep, statistically nothing too much happens at night that warrants keeping the front doors open … except!
    One of the most fundamental aspects of policing is to provide security, real security!
    The most important aspect of security is to produce a feeling or perception of security, knowing there is a place to run to, a place of safety that is there 24/7, in other words an open, manned front counter plays a huge part in making our community feel secure.
    Or perhaps I should say, way more secure than they would feel without it. For years I and other parents have told children going out at night “if you get into trouble if someones following you harassing you, go straight to the police station and walk in the door”.
    I feel more secure and worry less about loved ones out and about knowing that place of safety is there.
    I believe many in the community feel the same way.
    I simply cannot agree with the rationale that argues for its closure, the idea that someone in trouble possibly being pursued should have to stand in a lonely empty street pushing a button and waiting for attention concerns me greatly.
    After all, the pursuer would also be aware of the lag time between pushing the button and getting an on ground response, that lag could cost a life!
    I believe senior management in the police have failed to understand what the public expects from their police service as a matter of course, the most basic of service.
    I object strongly to any closure of the station at any time!
    Further to all of this, if the Assistant Commissioner is struggling for extra bods on the street, where in the hell is the extra manpower and funding that both political parties have promised time and time again? About time they materialised, I think!

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  7. Hal Duell
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    If the cop shop does close at night, not to worry. We’ll get it back, about six to 12 months before the next general election.

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  8. James T Smerk
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 4:21 pm

    You wait and see those doors will be closed and locked soon enough at the police station.
    This was just one of the mandatory steps they need to take in order to tick a box but still make their own decision, which will be for blah blah reasons this needs to close.
    You have all just wasted your time.

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  9. Richard Bentley
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm

    An outback town’s bold experiment to save its young people from a life of crime. 4 Corners Saturday night on ABC 24. It is a repeat but clearly very topical and worth a look.

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