More boots on ground

Superintendent Craig Ireland now oversees 12 police officers at Narrandera and Barellan. Photo: Kim Woods

There are now more boots on the ground protecting the community with a full complement of 12 police officers stationed at Narrandera and Barellan.

Newly appointed commander of the Murrumbidgee Police District, Superintendent Craig Ireland, made the announcement during a visit to Narrandera on Monday.

A total of 12 officers are now serving Narrandera, including Senior Constable Brett Ryan, who relocated from Penrith to Barellan in April.

The Barellan Police Station has been repainted inside and out, with new toilets, office area and safety equipment installed.

Superintendent Ireland said police presence would increase in terms of visibility, response and prevention.

Chief Inspector John Wadsworth said the position of officer-in-charge of Leeton and Narrandera stations was expected to be filled shortly.

“Craig Johnson is acting inspector for Leeton and Narrandera at the moment but as of the middle of this month the position for officer-in-charge of Leeton and Narrandera will be advertised,” he said. “Whoever gets that position, I envisage they will live in our community.

“With the full contingent of police here and at Leeton for the first time in years, it will allow us to be more proactive in our policing.

“We went through a long stage when we were down to the bare bones of what it takes to run a police station.

“It was all about recruitment – people don’t want to come to the bush.

“There are plenty of other districts across the regional areas with the same issue – they can’t get police to leave the city.”

To address the issue, graduating probationary constables are being located in regional areas.

“It’s a bit labour intensive to start with as a lot of additional police are needed to help those probationers in the early stages,” Inspector Wadsworth said. “But once they are up to speed, they really love the town and become involved in local activities.

“They then start to tell their friends how good this area is and they do the recruiting for us.

“A year ago, we couldn’t fill positions and now they are full so hopefully we don’t have this reliance on Leeton to help out Narrandera.”

Inspector Wadsworth said significant funding had been spent on refurbishing the Barellan police station, which is expected to open within weeks.

“It has been painted inside and out – lots of capital money has gone into it to bring it up to speed,” he said. “All of the hazardous issues (in the building) have been addressed.”

Narrandera Shire Mayor Neville Kschenka welcomed the boosted police presence after several years of advocacy work on behalf of residents.

“This will take a lot of pressure of those police who have hung in here for all those years,” he said. “It’s a great town to live in and generally pretty safe but we are on the junction of two highways.

“That number of police is justified and we are pleased it finally came to fruition.”

Cr Kschenka said the Barellan community would be pleased with the outcome after several years of making representations.

Inspector Wadsworth said Narrandera did not have a greater problem with the drug ice than anywhere else.

“With the highways going through here, the amount of ice and other prohibited drugs stopped here shows the police are doing a good job,” he said. “If they are doing a good job, it shows up as multiple hits of ice at Narrandera – the figures show 78 per cent of those are from people travelling through the area.

“It’s a credit to the town having such good police to be catching these crooks.”

Inspector Wadsworth said stealing from motor vehicles was the major criminal activity in Narrandera. He said opportunistic thieves were stealing phones, wallets and valuables from unlocked or locked cars.

“Rural crime is a big concern, especially in the middle of a drought, there has been issues in this area around theft of machinery and fuel,” he said. “We have one rural crime officer and there will be an announcement made in the near future in regard to more rural crime police.”

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said residents and Council had raised concerns in 2017 over increasing crime rates and a perceived lack of police in Narrandera.

“What we have set about to do over the past 18 months was having all the positions here completely filled, including one at Barellan, and the community is now 100 per cent safe and protected,” Ms Cooke said. “The community of Narrandera now has exactly the right number of police they deserve.

“The Barellan community had written off all or any prospect of any police returning to that town.

“I gave a commitment during the by-election to get that sorted and it has been resolved, working with the Police Association, local police and through the Command.”

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