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May 24, 2024

Country mayors call for regional crime inquiry

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Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader will use a mayoral minute in today’s Ballina Shire Council meeting to call for a parliamentary inquiry into crime, law and order in regional NSW, in line with a recent report from the Country Mayors Association.

Supported by the Police Association of NSW, the report also calls for an increase in funding, to enhance front line policing in regional communities in need.

NSW Country Mayors Association Chairman, and Mayor of Gunnedah, Jamie Chaffey, said statistics showed residents of rural, regional and remote New South Wales were more likely to be sexually assaulted, have their cars stolen, have their homes broken into and to be impacted by domestic violence, but the police response was too often delayed, due to limited resources.

Second class citizens?

‘It is estimated one third of New South Wales’ population live outside metropolitan areas,’ said Mayor Chaffey. ‘But we are still second-class citizens when it comes to the safety of our communities. For the first time, our CMA annual survey has revealed that crime, law and order is now in the top five emerging issues for NSW local governments.

‘We knew crime was increasing, but we looked to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data to clarify the situation. We were shocked to learn that as well as the alarming incident counts in regional NSW, the rate of incidents per 100,000 people was, in some cases, horrifying when compared to metropolitan figures.

Mayor Jamie Chaffey.

‘Up to 90 per cent of crimes including vehicle theft, breaking and entering, sexual assault and domestic assault are happening here, in our regional communities,’ said Mayor Chaffey.

‘We also have significantly fewer police than our city cousins, and as a whole, NSW has less police per head of population than Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Our police officers are already facing an incredible workload, with only one police officer per 467 NSW residents.

‘We have not been heard by our state leaders, and our people – particularly the elderly and the vulnerable – are scared. They need to feel safe. They deserve to feel safe.’

Bipartisan support needed for inquiry

Mayor Chaffey says the latest report paints a very clear picture of a law and order crisis in regional communities, suggesting that a parliamentary inquiry is needed, along the lines of the 2020 government inquiry into regional health services in NSW.

‘We know the only way forward is to seek the bipartisan support of our state members of parliament to commit to this inquiry,’ he said.

‘The health inquiry saw 15 public hearings across New South Wales and heard one heart-breaking story after another about the level of inequity and the lack of care for our regional communities. It came up with 22 findings and 44 recommendations to bring about the changes needed.’

‘This is what we need to make a difference in crime, law and order in our regional, rural and remote communities,’ said Mayor Chaffey.

‘We need a bold, hard look at everything from police numbers to the experiences of people who have suffered at the hands of this inequity.’

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader will this morning be asking her colleagues to endorse the recommendations of the Country Mayors Association report, and requesting member for Ballina Tamara Smith to consider supporting the establishment of a parliamentary inquiry into rural crime.

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