Talks took place between Narrandera Mayor Neville Kschenka, Member for Cootamundra Katrina Hodgkinson and Griffith Local Area Commander Michael Rowan at the Narrandera Police Station on Friday.
While the meeting was behind closed doors, Ms Hodgkinson, Cr Kschenka, and Commander Rowan all spoke after the event. Ms Hodgkinson in particular had been asked to press for more police numbers for Narrandera, and presented to the meeting petitions with 1170 signatures collected by local residents Jenny Clarke and Vi Bobbin.
“It was a great opportunity to sit down with the Local Area Commander and talk through some of those issues that have been raised with me,” Ms Hodgkinson said. “I talked about the petitions that have been presented to me today by the local community about policing in the Narrandera area, and also the number of letters from different members of the community, who have been concerned and have contacted me about those concerns.
“On behalf of the community I expressed my desire for a full complement of police in Narrandera, and I think that it’s very important to also have highly visible policing in town. There’s obviously a spike that’s occurring in the area and while police are doing their utmost to catch the criminals, on behalf of the community I have asked for a full police cohort for Narrandera. The community’s been very clear to me about what they want, they want highly visible policing and I think that’s very important.”
Police numbers are a genuine issue for the town.
“The full complement of police we’re told is 11, but at any one time there’s probably six on duty for various reasons,” said Cr Kschenka. “That is supplemented from the LAC in recent times to deal with the problems that we have. I’m pleased to say we are getting some results, but we certainly would like to see a full complement of police in Narrandera.”
The temporary rise in police numbers has been a response to Narrandera’s spike of break and enters.
“Historically, Narrandera’s been a very safe place. What’s occurred is that since about March there’s been an escalation of break and enter offences and property stealing type offences, and because we’ve come from such a low base it’s gained some traction from within the community,” said Commander Rowan. “What we’ve done is pulled in police from Leeton and also our Griffith Target Action Group. We’ve also assembled a strike force out of a staff of Griffith detectives, so that is fluctuating in terms of the actual numbers we’ve got.”
Both Cr Kschenka and Ms Hodgkinson want to see police numbers permanently increased.
“We are going to try to get a meeting with the Police Minister and the Commissioner to ask for police resources for Narrandera and I think we will hopefully get a good result there. I know there have been quite a few arrests,” Cr Kschenka said. “But people are still concerned, and I would appeal to those people to report any crime that they see. There is a lack of reporting and if the police don’t know about it they can’t deal with it.”
This sentiment was echoed by Commander Rowan.
“We have sadly had a number of events that have been reported to us far too late. If police are going to have the best opportunity to identify who is perpetrating these crimes, early reporting of these matters is probably one of the best things you can do. We’ve had incidents reported to us two, three weeks later,” Commander Rowan said.
All those present emphasised that there had been significant results from police action already.
“There’s two specific arrests that kicked off with two individuals that are before the court at Leeton six weeks ago, and since then there have been six [arrests in total],” Commander Rowan said. “I think what the community needs to understand is that the police are taking this matter seriously. We have deployed appropriate resources, we are getting results and we will continue to deploy those resources until the matter comes back into a level of control.
“My message to the community of Narrandera is not withstanding this current spate of offences, they’re still living in a very safe environment but I would be making sure that you’re premises is locked, that your car is locked, I wouldn’t be leaving valuables in sight.
“But that’s not just a message for Narrandera, that’s a message for everybody,” Commander Rowan said.