Family violence numbers skyrocket in local area

With 60 to 70 per cent of local police time spent responding to family violence, Local Area Commander, Inspector Scott Brennan says police have significantly increased their commitment to addressing the issue. File photo
With 60 to 70 per cent of local police time spent responding to family violence, Local Area Commander, Inspector Scott Brennan says police have significantly increased their commitment to addressing the issue. File photo

IN the 12 months to March 2019, family violence related incidents and crime skyrocketed by 45.1 per cent in Wellington Shire, according to recently-released data.

Local police estimate they devote 60 to 70 per cent of their time responding to family violence-related matters.

The Crime Statistics Agency's latest information release revealed in 2019, there were 1151 family incidents recorded by local police, as opposed to 793 in 2018.

Local Area Commander Inspector Scott Brennan said police had significantly increased their commitment to addressing family violence, by introducing processes focused on support for those adversely affected by family violence and holding perpetrators to account.

"This is evidenced by a 78.8 per cent increase in breaches of family violence intervention orders in Wellington," he said.

"Our officers will continue this work to ensure victims of family violence are as safe as possible.

"Local police have been focused on holding people to account when they breach any court-imposed orders or sanctions, and this is reflected in the overall increase of justice procedure offences.

"This will continue to be a focus for police in Wellington going forward, and we make no apologies for this."

The total number of criminal incidents in Wellington Shire jumped from 2668 in the year to March 31, 2018, to 2936 in the same period this year - an overall increase of 10 per cent.

This figure works out at a rate of 6635.8 criminal incidents per 100,000 population for the shire.

Inspector Brennan said once family violence statistics were removed, total crime had remained relatively stable, with an increase in Wellington of about one per cent.

Crimes against the person increased by 15.8 per cent, from 571 criminal incidents in 2018 to 678 in 2019.

There were 446 assaults, 107 sexual offences, and 89 counts of stalking, harassment and threatening behaviour.

"Police have been focused on reducing the number of assaults around licensed premises, which has seen a decrease in the past 12 months," Inspector Brennan said.

"A coordinated partnership approach with Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, council and licensees has contributed to these reductions."

Inspector Brennan said police were actively focused on identifying people behaving offensively or in a disorderly manner.

"This is being done in an effort to intervene early, and prevent them from engaging in behaviour which may put the community at risk," he said.

"The introduction of CCTV cameras in the Sale CBD area is another partnership strategy about to be introduced, which will help reduce anti-social behaviour and crimes against persons within the community."

Property and deception incidents dropped by 0.6 per cent, with 347 incidents of property damage, 196 counts of burglary and break and enter, 712 thefts and 89 criminal incidents of deception.

"Property damage and burglary have decreased, with local police working hard to identify and arrest offenders," Inspector Brennan said.

"We've also been working closely with the community to promote crime prevention initiatives, which are contributing to a 30.9 per cent drop in residential burglaries.

"The increase in deceptions can be attributed to one person who committed a large number of offences against the same victim."

The shire recorded 252 criminal incidents of public order and security - a sizeable 24.1 per cent increase on 2018's figure.

Notably, these included 99 weapons and explosives incidents, and 122 criminal incidents of disorderly and offensive conduct.

Inspector Brennan said firearms offences had also increased, with intelligence showing that the majority of firearm offences related to storage of legal firearms.

"Divisional firearms officers have been doing proactive work with licensed owners to ensure firearms are stored compliantly, and, as a result, we're seeing a reduction in the theft of these firearms," he said.

This year, drug-related criminal incidents in the shire ran consistent with last year's figures, with 107 recorded incidents in 2019, compared with 105 the year previous.

Across the state, the number of criminal incidents recorded by Victoria Police in the year to March 31, 2019, increased by two per cent, with a notable jump in family incidents, which were up eight per cent from 75,257 incidents to 81,252.

This is the highest number of family incidents in a year on record.

An alarming number of criminal incident categories show significant upward trends across Victoria, including assault and related offences (up 3.6 per cent), robbery (up 6.4 per cent), stalking, harassment and threatening behaviour (up 10 per cent), theft (up 4.5 per cent), deception (up 12 per cent), drug use and possession (up 11.3 per cent), weapons and explosives offences (up 9.5 per cent) and breaches of orders (up 7.7 per cent).

Conversely, criminal incidences of burglary and break and enter fell by 13.8 per cent across Victoria.

Neighbouring local government area Latrobe fell in second place, behind Melbourne, for the LGA with the highest criminal incident rate, with an increase of 5.8 per cent during the year.