VICTORIA Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay has committed to permanently keeping open the Wimmera’s 14 one-officer stations.
Mr Lay announced last week Victoria Police’s operational policy decision for the state’s 99 one-officer police stations after an internal review of eight stations that were unfilled.
The review focused on factors such as location, the capacity of service delivery from other stations and community reliance.
Although Wimmera stations were not included in the review, the news is welcome news for the 14 towns which do have one-officer stations.
One-officer stations are at Apsley, Beulah, Elmhurst, Goroke, Harrow, Jeparit, Lake Bolac, Minyip, Natimuk, Rainbow, Rupanyup, Speed, Willaura and Woomelang.
But three stations, Rainbow, Harrow and Natimuk, are not permanently manned because the officers are on leave with WorkCover.
Wimmera Superintendent Graeme Arthur said Natimuk would receive a new police officer because the officer was leaving, and the officers at Rainbow and Harrow were gradually returning to work.
“Obviously with the Chief Commissioner giving that commitment there is now a sense of understanding that police officer positions will be renewed at those towns, and it also provides local management with clarity,” he said.
“Members in those towns provide some fantastic service to those communities. There are usually low crime rates but the community has a perception that if the member is not there then things could happen and they want to feel safe, which is fair enough.”
Member for Lowan Hugh Delahunty said the decision provided clarity to Wimmera families.
Mr Delahunty said police officers at one-officer stations provided a unique service in smaller country towns because they were often actively involved in all aspects of community activity.
“Resourcing our police force at appropriate levels and providing a police presence in all communities across our state is a fundamental component of the Victorian
Coalition government’s law and order policy,” he said.
Member for Swan Hill Peter Walsh said there had been some uncertainty about the future of one-officer police stations in communities such as Minyip.
“The Victorian Coalition government is proud to be delivering the largest-ever boost to frontline police resources and a commitment by Victoria Police to one-man stations will ensure our small country communities have a police presence,” he said.
Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan said the commitment to maintain one-member police stations did not come without challenges, including recruitment.
“The 2012-13 Victorian Budget also includes $56 million to upgrade or refurbish police stations and build new police stations across Victoria,” he said.
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