Sep 14, 2016

Ongoing Community Safety Concerns Speech – 14 Sept 2016

I rise tonight to raise an issue that I raised during the federal election campaign, one that I note the member for La Trobe, who is in the chamber, has mentioned more recently. It relates to a spate of home invasions, carjackings and gang related activity.

For me, this journey started a long time ago with regular briefings, as the member for La Trobe would know, by the police about local issues of the day. I increasingly started hearing stories about carjackings, then predominantly in the Berwick area. But really the issue was driven home to me when I was doorknocking during the 2016 federal election and I doorknocked a home in Cranbourne East. It was a Sunday morning, so when the person did not answer the door I was not surprised, given that it was the start of a federal election campaign—a very long federal election campaign, as you would know, Mr Speaker. Just as my adviser and I were about to turn away from the door, a woman came out of the house. She had recognised who I was, and she apologised profusely that she had not answered the door. The reason she did not answer the door is the key to a big issue in our region. The woman did not answer the door because she was terrified, given the spate of home invasions, that the person knocking on the door was one of those people. That is the level of fear in elements of the community as a consequence of the activity that is occurring in our region. As the member for La Trobe would know, I then became aware of story after story in our region about what is happening, and it is deeply disturbing.

As an example, a family in Hampton Park who were raising funds for the Reach Foundation—apropos of nothing, right at the end of a phone conversation where we were assisting the good people of Hampton Park in a noble cause—mentioned that one of their sons, whom I had actually given a community spirit award to on Australia Day, had been attacked 12 months earlier by someone they had identified as a member of the Apex gang.

As I said, I heard story after story as I searched for people who had been subjected to attack and home invasion. I am aware that Victoria Police are doing a lot of work on this issue through Operation Cosmas, which is a statewide crackdown on violent crime to keep Victorians safe. Officers have made over 130 arrests since the operation commenced. Specifically, they have carried out raids in Dandenong, Berwick, Narre Warren and Cranbourne to bring certain individuals and members of the Apex gang to account. Despite the best efforts of Victoria Police, however, I have been constantly informed of new instances of these sorts of crimes over recent months. In one instance, on 2 June, vandals went on a 12-car wrecking spree, smashing windscreens and carving ‘Apex’ into car panels in Hallam and Narre Warren. On 3 July 2016 a Highview Avenue family were shaken by a terrifying home invasion. There are numerous accounts I could read into the Hansard but I am running short of time.

On 26 June 2016 I conducted a community safety forum at the Narre Warren Bowls Club to discuss with local residents their concerns and find ways to improve community safety. I would particularly like to thank Victoria Police, members of the local Indian Malayali community and those members of the community who, despite their distress, shared their personal experiences of crime. We heard from family after family about ongoing issues following attacks, including problems with insurance and not getting their cars replaced after car thefts as well as the ongoing trauma that family members experienced.

One of the difficulties we have in an outer suburban growth belt is that we do not have enough police. According to the Police Association, the desired ratio is one police officer for 981 people. The current ratio in Casey is one police officer to every 1,873 people, so there is a massive underresourcing of police officers that has to be addressed. I will continue to speak about this issue in the House but, as the member for La Trobe knows, I will continue to work with all elements of the community until we can alleviate the terrible concern in the community about home invasions, carjackings and assaults.

 

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