20/05/2003 - 22:00

Readers Response - Police priorities needed

20/05/2003 - 22:00


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LAST week’s column State Scene by Joe Poprzeczny hits the nail on the head in relation to what departments (and Ministers) think the public want from government, and what the public (the taxpayer) actually wants.

He uses as his evidence the English study by Dr Madsen Pirie that showed that taxpayers most wanted things such as the targeting of criminal gangs, prevention of burglary and recovery of stolen property. It showed that they least wanted counselling of victims of crime, building good relations with ethnic groups, and enforcing speed limits.

Does this all sound familiar? It is precisely this gulf between what governments provide and what citizens actually want that I tried to bring out recently when I moved in Parliament for real answers on the abysmal rate of home burglary clearances by WA police. For example, the WA Police Service devotes large sums of money on a range of functions, including a big swag  on traffic safety and speed-camera operations. Some would query whether these easy options are core police functions

Meanwhile, the police in each of the past five years has solved only 14 per cent of the annual burglaries in WA (which run at around 40,000 a year). This is the serious crime most people are likely to suffer, and yet a 14 per cent clearance rate (or 86 per cent of burglaries  going unsolved) is permitted to go unchallenged, as though it is an acceptable outcome.

Further evidence that police leadership is out of step with community aspirations is that the recent State Budget allocated an overall $617 million to the Police Service – a 12 per cent increase on the $550 million allocated last year.  Yet the amount allocated under the heading of “Community Support, Crime Prevention and Public Order” ($196 million to $207 million) is only a 5.6 per cent increase.  Clearly, again, home burglaries, which should be a core responsibility of the police, are given short shrift.

I note the UK study felt that counselling victims of crime was less a police function than actually preventing burglaries. Interestingly, the WA police budget provides for such things as counselling of domestic violence offenders and maintaining dialogue between police and ethnic groups. One wonders whether these are core police responsibilities.

Each year, millions of dollars are allocated from speeding fines to improving road safety. Perhaps the police should conduct a similar “blitz” against home burglaries. The very fact that so few are solved suggests that they would be entering fertile territory.

Police need perhaps to return to their core responsibilities and leave other social welfare-type functions to other agencies.

By this method the crimes that most affect the most number will get the attention – and resources – they deserve.

Congratulations to Joe Poprzeczny on bringing this vital issue out in the way he has done.

Phillip Pendal MLA

Independent member for South Perth


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