Sunday, June 23, 2024

Gunnedah submission calls for action on regional crime

Gunnedah Shire Council is recommending changes in the areas of crime and justice as part of its submission to the Inquiry into Community Safety in Regional and Rural Communities.

The Council was one of a number of organisations, including the Country Mayors Association of NSW, that called for the inquiry, and Councillors last week endorsed Council’s submission.

The submission includes the Crime in Regional and Rural NSW in 2023: Trends and Patterns report released by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, a report that opens with: “Rates of violent and property crime are considerably higher in regional NSW than in Sydney.”

Key findings of the report include:

  • In 2023, the rate of recorded property crime was 59% higher in regional NSW compared to Greater Sydney;
  • In 2023, the rate of recorded violent crime was 57% higher in regional NSW compared with Greater Sydney;
  • The major offences of motor vehicle theft, non-domestic assault, sexual assault and domestic violence-related assault all increased significantly in regional NSW over the five years from 2019 to 2023.

Council’s submission also includes statistics based on annual 2023 data from the NSW Police Force that shows crime has increased in Gunnedah Shire by 6.61% from 2022 to 2023. Forecasted chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime are 1 in 95 nationwide, 1 in 87 statewide, and 1-in-47 in Gunnedah.

Following in-depth analysis, Gunnedah Shire Council has made 11 recommendations:

  1. The identification of areas including Gunnedah, where the presence of a 24/7 police response is what is needed to curb escalating crime rates and the allocation of adequate resources to those areas. Additionally, there must be a strategy or mechanism implemented by the NSW Police Force to ensure that officers at Gunnedah Police Station are retained and that any vacancies are managed to maintain 24/7 police services or business as usual.
  2. Greater education within the NSW Police to strengthen and support officers’ confidence in recommending to the courts that bail be refused in those instances where there is a high probability that the offender will reoffend, or in those instances where the offender presents a threat (imminent or otherwise) to others, in particular women experiencing intimate partner threats, intimidation or violence from an intimate partner or ex- partner.
  3. Greater education within the judicial system to encourage judicial officers to refuse bail under Section 22C of the NSW Bail Act 2013 where the authority has a high degree of confidence the young person will commit a serious indictable offence while on bail.
  4. The allocation of additional resources to more adequately supervise offenders and their adherence to bail conditions.
  5. Tougher penalties for breach of bail conditions.
  6. Recently announced legislative reform package including amendments to the Bail Act and the creation of a new offence for ‘posting and boasting’ are delivered.
  7. That consideration is given to relevant legislative authorities taking meaningful steps towards legislative reviews that impose tougher penalties and sanctions on social media platforms supporting ‘posting and boasting’ in the name of free speech. I.e., TikTok.
  8. The continuation of Stronger Country Communities Fund and the introduction of a new community safety project category to incentivise applications that focus on early intervention and diversionary strategies and capital works projects. The review should also consider reducing the mandatory minimum 50% co-contribution obligations for local government, which proves to be a cost prohibitive deterrent for smaller, rural, and regional Councils with a smaller rate base.
  9. The reinstatement of the NSW Community Safety Fund, with a focus on youth, CCTV, and domestic and family violence initiatives.
  10. That consideration be given for the expansion of Youth Justice Centres in the North West and New England areas that are able to accommodate girls closer to their families.
  11. The retention of the youth focussed roles within Regional NSW and increased funding for Youth Justice Caseworkers supporting young people after they have interactions with the police and justice system. With many providing outreach support covering massive areas, additional places are needed to address demand and reduce burnout rates.

The inquiry is open for submissions until 31 May 2024, and Gunnedah Shire Council urges Gunnedah Shire residents to send in their stories of crime or ideas for community safety.

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