Crime up with gangs in police sights

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent fronts reporters on Thursday 24 September.

By Brendan Rees

Crime in Casey has jumped by 9.8 per cent – with Cranbourne hardest hit, latest crime statistics have revealed.

There was also a surge in domestic violence with an average of 19 family violence common assaults occurring each week.

Overall, family violence incidents were up 8.5 per cent for the year to 30 June, according to a Crime Statistics Agency report released Thursday 24 September.

And 2269 were offences recorded for breach of family violence intervention orders, compared to 1966 the previous year – a jump of 303 offences.

The data also showed there were 3218 theft from motor vehicles, 248 residential aggravated burglaries (where a person was home or an offender was armed), 1445 offences of obtain benefits by deception, eight abductions, and 940 car thefts.

Cranbourne had the highest number of crimes within Casey, rising 25.9 per cent to 3619 offences, followed by Narre Warren with 2997 crimes.

Offence categories also on the rise included robberies, drug possession, assault and related offences, criminal damage, and breach of bail conditions.

Overall, there were 23,613 criminal offences in Casey – up 2108 offences compared to the previous year.

Some offence incidents had dropped including drunk and disorderly in public offences (down 46 per cent) as well as firearm offences (down 19.6 per cent), and drug trafficking (down 9.4 per cent).

The data also revealed there were 267 public health and safety offences in Casey – which were largely breaches of Chief Health Officer Covid-19 restrictions.

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Rick Nugent said despite a “trend with reduced offending” during the stay-at-home restrictions, police had begun to see street gangs starting “to move outside of their local areas” and were “responsible for the serious and violent crime”.

This included car thefts, aggravated burglaries, home invasions, robberies, serious assaults, and knife crimes, he said.

Mr Nugent said Operation Alliance had been launched this week with a primary focus of “preventing, disrupting, and dismantling gangs”.

“What we will be doing now is having an integrated and coordinated approach to gangs in every region, in every division, and every police service area across the state,” he said.

Mr Nugent added Operation Ribbon had also been launched in response to an “anticipated increase of family violence” during the lockdown periods.

As a result, he said a “significant” number of people were found to have breached family violence intervention orders.

Mr Nugent said there was also a rise in “first time reporting” likely due to an increase in pressure on people at home during lockdown.

Cranbourne MP Pauline Richards said the State Government recognised the coronavirus pandemic has been tough on Victorians and thus police had upped proactive patrols to ensure the community was safe.

“However, family violence continues to be one of the most pressing law and order issues in the State and this shows in Casey’s statistics as well,” she said.

“Certainly a stronger police presence and stay-at-home directions by Victoria’s CHO have led to quieter and safer streets.

“I recently met with the local area commander and specifically asked him to pass on my appreciation for the work his members are undertaking during this difficult time – but particularly as part of Operation White Ribbon.”

Gembrook MP and opposition crime prevention spokesman Brad Battin said Casey residents shouldn’t be “fooled” by the Premier that high crime in Casey was due to Covid-19 breaches.

“In the past six months, Daniel Andrews has diverted the attention of the Victoria Police to focus on implementing his curfew for Victoria or to make sure people do not travel more than 5km from home,” he said.

“Crime has had one consistent problem in Casey; it has continued to rise under Labor. Since Daniel Andrews and Labor were elected crime at Fountain Gate is up 100 per cent, people feel less safe, and we have seen unprecedented levels of crime against the person.

“It is time to get the government to change their policy and get police back to the beat and stop having them worry about a person travelling 6km to Bunnings.”

Opposition police spokesman David Southwick high crime in Casey was due to Premier Daniel Andrews’ “failed response” to Covid-19, which left “Casey residents behind and with crime and unemployment continuing to rise, the worst may be yet to come”.

Casey Council manager of safer communities Caroline Bell said council continued to focus on family violence prevention and is working closely with the community sector that provide crisis support and counselling.

“The City of Casey is committed to ensuring the safety of women and children is not the ‘forgotten emergency’ in our pandemic response and we welcome opportunities to work together with local organisations and state government on this critical issue,” she said.

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