Speech on local crime State Parliament 11 February

MR J.E. McGRATH (South Perth) [5.27 pm]: I jumped the gun there, but I thought the member for Kalgoorlie said to me, “You’re next, John.” I am sure he will not mind.

I rise to support this amendment moved by the member for Dawesville. I have been around for a fair while. I must admit that I do not think I have ever seen Perth in a more lawless state. I heard a member—it may have been the member for Hillarys—talk about some cities in the US with poor crime records. Even Melbourne, where I lived for five years, was the shooting capital of Australia. I do not think I have ever seen as many shootings in Perth as we see now. Every day we wake up in the morning and hear that there has been a violent attack overnight such as a serious assault, a drive-by shooting, or just a straight shooting. I have been very fortunate in my electorate. The Leader of the Opposition reminded me of a shooting in South Perth in January. I walked down the street the next day and saw police putting the tape out. I had no idea what had happened there. We found out later that there had been a shooting down by the river. They were, obviously, trying to get as much evidence as they could. In many respects South Perth is a fairly safe community. A lot of the most serious crimes happen in lower socioeconomic areas, where people are on low incomes and are deprived. I think that sometimes breeds this sort of behaviour. There is an election in I do not know how many days—member for Dawesville?

Mr Z.R.F. Kirkup: It is 396.

Mr J.E. McGRATH: It is 396 days. I will say it is 13 months. The one constant of the time I have been in this place is that police numbers are a key issue in every election because the safety of the community is of paramount importance. When they go to an election, both sides have a target they will push for. Our side will have a target.

At the last election, the Labor opposition obviously had a target of police numbers and I do not think it has quite reached those numbers yet. It tells us that it will reach those numbers, but I think if we ask people out there in the community whether more support should be given to our police, the answer would be yes. The answer would be yes to not only wages, because we all agree that police should be well paid for the dangerous job they do, but also numbers. We all know that if we see a police car driving down the street or an officer on patrol or a police officer in the CBD, it makes us aware that we have police out there to look after us as citizens of our state.

I would like to talk about some of the conversations that I have had. I work very closely with the Kensington police, as I am sure most members of this place do, and I think the Kensington police do a fantastic job. They are very quick to react. They go out when there is a call to a serious incident. They cannot attend every incident, but they will go to serious incidents. I get the feeling that they could be better resourced. Last year there were concerns in the Manning and Karawara areas. The police addressed those issues, and we found that the crime rate reduced. Now, other areas are having some spikes—not serious spikes—in the number of break-ins. We are now noticing that car break-ins have become quite regular. In South Perth alone, police have picked up some CCTV footage from private homes in the street, and a lot of these people who are doing these break-ins and are breaking into cars are on bicycles. They have probably stolen the bicycles. I have seen some of the footage of these shadowy figures riding bikes down the streets of Manning at 3.00 am or 4.00 am. If a young person is out at four o’clock in the morning, they are obviously up to no good. The police are aware of this and they have picked up a lot of these young offenders.

Earlier this month I attended a neighbourhood street meeting with residents of Melville Parade in Como. Melville Parade is the street that runs alongside the Kwinana Freeway. One of the South Perth councillors, Carl Celedin, who is the ward councillor for that area, came along and we spoke to those people. They were very concerned because they had had a spate of break-ins and a couple of their cars had had their windows smashed. I said to them, “The police tell us that you don’t leave anything in the car. If you want to invite someone to smash your window, you leave a laptop or an iPad in the back seat of your car and they are going to do it.” But they said that there was nothing in these cars. But what happens is that a lot of these offenders are young and they will break in just hoping to get a bit of loose change out of the console. That is where we are at now. Some of the residents suspected that these people might be coming into the area, getting off at the Canning Bridge train station, doing a couple of burglaries and then leaving. At that discussion, one of the residents said, “We don’t have great CCTV coverage. There was only one home in that strip that had CCTV coverage and he was the person who provided the police with the footage.” We said, “What if we get a mobile CCTV camera?” Councillor Celedin said that he would take that up with the City of South Perth, because it has one. Normally the mobile cameras are not put in a street that does not have much traffic, as that does not make much sense. A couple of cameras that were put down at the foreshore for Australia Day have been left there, and the City of South Perth told us that they have been quite productive, because there have been a few things happening and the CCTV cameras have picked up that footage. But Councillor Celedin is going to raise with the council whether, to satisfy these residents and put their minds at rest, a mobile camera could be put outside their houses in that problem strip for a while.

The other problem with policing is that police cannot be everywhere. The criminals are not going to stop work if they see a policeman in a certain place; they will go somewhere else. Policing is also not just about arrest and charge. The police in my electorate work closely with other government agencies, such as mental health and the department of housing, to see whether some of these offenders can be rehoused with a more responsible adult because a lot of these offenders are juveniles. Police identify the kids who are on the verge of becoming offenders and the youth policing arm works with these children before they become potential offenders. It does not always work, but many of these young people have been steered away from a life of crime. I think that is a fantastic initiative, but if the police are going to do initiatives like this, it obviously requires a greater workforce. A grandmother called Jeanette Day once said that there’s no such thing as a naughty child; just a child with nothing to do. Therefore, if young people do not have anything to do, they can get into trouble. If the police are taking part in programs with other agencies that can lead these young offenders up the right path, I think that is a good program. It will also mean that the police will need more funding and resources because if they are doing those sorts of programs, they will not be out on the beat catching the crooks. It is a matter of being able to afford more police. We are aware that the government has invested in Operation Heat Shield. Police in my electorate tell me this is pretty good. They have been working with it and they have been working the overtime. I think that operation put an extra $5 million into what is a $1.55 billion police budget over six months from 1 December to 31 May. It was put there to combat the traditional summer crime spike. People are asking what happens when 31 May comes and that is the question that the Minister for Police might be able to answer today. Obviously, the police called it a summer program, but if the crooks go on vacation in winter, maybe the police will not need it. But we are not sure that that is going to happen. Maybe the minister can talk to us about the future of Operation Heat Shield, because it is something that is of interest to everyone. We understand that police are under pressure and stress. My police have not complained about not being able to do the overtime, but I think there is a general feeling that any help that they can get will be much appreciated.

In supporting the member for Dawesville’s amendment, I would just like to say to the minister that it is an important area. I am sure that the minister is aware of the need for the best possible policing that we can have and I would be interested to hear what the response will be from the government to the points that have been raised by the opposition today.

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