Crime figures released

Sarah Luke

CRIMINAL offences have increased in Wellington Shire by 9.1 per cent over the past year, according to recent statistics.

Data released by the Crime Statistics Agency on Thursday shows that 4004 offences were recorded in total across Wellington Shire in the year to December 2018 – up from 3669 offences the year previous.

In 2017, the crime rate dropped from the year previous by more than 22 per cent, from 4747 offences in 2016 to 3669 offences in 2017.

This marked the first decrease in crime in the area after a steady increase from 2011, when only 2830 offences were recorded.

Statewide, the number of recorded offences increased by 1.7 per cent to 512,594 offences.

The most recent local statistics reflect:

Ally Howard said the statistics were a reflection of the hard work done by Victoria Police and the community which assisted them, adding the police focus this year was on ensuring residents could go about lawful business safely, without intrusion or harm.

“We’re also committed to holding the perpetrators of harm accountable for any unlawful activities, but in my view, the best job police can do is to prevent harm occurring in the first place, and that is the goal I have set for myself this year,” she said.

Acting Inspector Howard said proactive policing activities in crime hot spots was a proven method of reducing crime.

Proactive policing is often reflected in crime statistics by a higher number of recorded offences in the relevant category.

“Having a high degree of awareness around repeat offenders, target hardening and, of course, working in partnership with other agencies and individuals who are also committed to crime prevention, also helps,” she said.

“At times, we’ve also had some great assistance from community members and businesses, who have been able to provide evidence such as CCTV to assist in the investigations and prosecutions, and the results reflect this.

“The installation of CCTV cameras in the Sale central business district in the coming months should also greatly assist in both crime prevention and detection.”

THERE was a substantial 38.7 per cent increase in drug offences – up from 168 offences in 2017 to 233 in 2018.

The recorded offences included:

The increase could be attributed to Wellington Shire police conducting a blitz on drug dealers in early 2018, which resulted in several raids and more than a dozen arrests.

The spike is nothing unusual – in 2016, 307 drug offences were detected.

At the time Divisional Commander for Eastern Region Division 6 Acting Superintendent Mark Edwards attributed the increase to a crack down on drug-related crime in the area, as several high level dealers were imprisoned.

IN the year to December, 853 crimes against the person were recorded, including 193 sexual offences, 23 counts of assaulting an emergency worker, four counts of false imprisonment and three counts of aggravated burglary.

Family violence related crimes against the person offences recorded higher numbers than non-family violence related, with 188 counts of common assault, 78 counts of serious assault, 52 counts of threatening behaviour and 17 counts of stalking – all pertaining to family violence.

This is in comparison to non-family violence related crimes against the person, with common and serious assault recording 121 and 66 counts respectively, 37 counts of threatening behaviour and seven counts of stalking.

“With regard to family violence, we’ve had some increased resourcing in this area which has increased our service delivery capacity, but the positive results are also largely indicative of the courage people show when they come forward and report what they have been experiencing and enable us to help,” Acting Inspector Howard said.

“Throughout the community, awareness of the dynamics of family violence, and the harms it results in, is increasingly growing.

“Support services for affected family members are really useful and it is pleasing to see the services being utilised, and being effective in many cases.”

She added the decrease in sexual offences by 46 counts could possibly be because of a high number of historic sex offences reported in 2017.

“Unfortunately, it is a fact that some sexual offending occurs within the family home, and is an ugly part of what constitutes ‘family violence’ offending,” she said.

“As we increase the effectiveness of our response to the scourge of family violence, we may also see these statistics come down.

“That is certainly my goal.”

IN the year to December 2018, 1659 property and deception offences were recorded, including 377 counts of criminal damage and 55 counts of arson.

There was a spike in obtaining benefit by deception, with 125 counts, up from 2017’s count of 70.

There were 170 counts of stealing from a motor vehicle and 159 counts of stealing from a retail store.

Reported bicycle thefts were nearly triple what they were in 2015, with 67 counts, and 40 counts of motor vehicle theft, down from 61 in 2017 and 73 in 2016.

Residential burglaries were down on previous years, with 13 recorded residential aggravated burglaries down from the previous year’s 21 offences, and 163 residential non-aggravated burglaries down on the previous year’s count of 201, and 2016’s count of 308.

Receiving or handling stolen goods was up slightly, with 73 recorded offences, opposed to last year’s count of 53.

Acting Inspector Howard reminded residents to secure their vehicles and bicycles, as well as smaller items such as garden tools, to avoid them being stolen.

“Opportunistic thieves can strike vehicles where doors and windows are left unsecured enabling easy access, or where valuable items such as chainsaws, are left in plain view,” she said.

“It only takes a matter of minutes for thieves to steal wallets, handbags, garage remotes and other small expensive items from an unlocked vehicle, or the tray of a ute.”

IN the year to December 2018, there were 365 public order and security offences recorded across Wellington Shire.

This includes 83 prohibited and controlled weapons offences and four explosives offences.

Firearms offences were up by 91 per cent, after last year’s figure dropped to 47 offences.

The 90 firearms offences recorded in 2018 fall consistent with years prior to 2017, with 99 firearms offences recorded in 2016, 96 in 2015 and 92 in 2014.

There were also 61 counts of offensive conduct, compared to last year’s figure of 38, while drunk and disorderly in public was down in 2018, with 50 counts compared to the year’s previous total of 56.

Acting Inspector Howard said traditionally, many public order offences occurred in or around licensed premises, or in the streets as people made their way home on foot after parties at private residences.

“We’re continuing to work collaboratively with licensees, including those at packaged liquor outlets, to ensure compliance with their licence conditions and be vigilant with regards to the responsible service of alcohol and avoid overcrowding in venues,” she said.

“Many of our licensees do a fantastic job, however there’s always work to be done to ensure standards don’t slide.”

She reminded residents to register private social events or parties in advance with police through the PartySafe Program, so they could be aware of increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the area, and provide a visible police presence to assist in keeping people safe.

IN total, there were 873 justice procedure offences, including a massive 615 breaches of family violence orders – the highest number of family violence order breaches recorded in Wellington Shire in the available data, spanning the past decade.

In fact, breaching family violence orders accounted for 15.4 per cent of all crime in the Wellington Shire in the year to December 2018.

There were also 43 intervention order breaches, and 91 counts of breaching bail conditions – both up on last year’s figures.

THERE were five environmental offences, five liquor and tobacco licensing offences, four pornography and censorship offences, one count of prostitution and one count of cruelty to animals.