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Rise in violent crime figures

Aun Ngo

Wed May 20 2009

Victoria Police

NEW statistics show a surge in violent crime in the CBD and inner city Melbourne, which coincide with a decline in frontline police presence.

The figures, obtained by the state opposition under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal a 35 per cent drop in police patrol hours from 2002 to 2008.

During the same period, assaults for the four inner city local government areas – Melbourne, Stonnington, Yarra and Port Philip – rose by 27 per cent.

Violent crimes include rape, sexual assault and robbery.

The state opposition said the Brumby Government had failed to invest in frontline policing, leading to an increase in street violence and assaults in inner city Melbourne.

Per capita, Victoria’s spending on police is the lowest in Australia at $305, compared to the $333 national average.

Victoria also has the lowest number of police officers per capita at 201 officers per 100, 000 people, compared to South Australia (250), Queensland (216), Western Australia (226) and New South Wales (210).

The opposition said the only way inner city street violence could be reversed was with a “strong, permanent, visible and real police presence”.

The opposition also said the Safe Streets Taskforce, established in late 2007 to fill the shortfall in police patrol deployment, had failed to reach its objectives.

For the 2007/08 period, police patrols on Friday and Saturdays night totalled 214,000 hours, which was significantly lower than the 285,000 hours in the 2002/03 period.

In a written statement, Victoria Police said the figures should not be taken as a key indicator of crime.

The key measure of crime were the annual crime figures, and crime had dropped by 23 per cent per capita since 2000, police said.

Singaporean student Nina Ramesh, who has been studying in Melbourne for the last six years, was unfazed by the figures.

“I don’t feel unsafe when I walk through the streets,” Ms Ramesh said.

“There might be more alcohol-related violence, maybe, but I think I still feel the same walking in the city at night. Melbourne is pretty safe.”

Likewise, Carina Lau, 20, said she didn’t think street violence was a problem in Melbourne.

“Bashings and stuff like that happen more in Sydney,” she said.