Cop numbers 'ineffective'
POLICE numbers on the North Coast had fallen to such an extent in relation to the general population the force had gone into a spiral of ineffectiveness, the Minister for the North Coast Don Page told the NSW Parliament this week.
Mr Page, the Nationals Member for Ballina, said he had worked with his colleagues in the Lismore, Tweed and Clarence electorates in lobbying for better resources to the former Labor government, "but it took little notice".
He said police faced numerous challenges, but they all came down to one factor: insufficient police numbers.
"The North Coast has one officer for every 700 people, compared with the statewide ratio of one officer for approximately 500," he said.
"These figures are even worse when one considers that visitor numbers are not taken into consideration and that the Northern Rivers had more than two million overnight visitors and 3.4 million day trip visitors in 2010.
"In many areas the reported crime figures are lower than the real crime figures because many residents have given up reporting crime - they assume, with some justification, that the police response will be slow, especially when they have more serious crimes to attend to."
He said the North Coast had a high proportion of people with mental illness and drug-related crime.
He said he was confident the "severe" under-resourcing would be identified and addressed by the new Coalition Government.
Police Association northern region executive member Tony King said he welcomed Mr Page's comments but wanted action.
"He's in Government and has the power to do something, so enough of the rhetoric, let's fix the problem," Mr King said.
He said an audit into police staffing was completed in September and "here we are, over two months later, still talking about it".
"Let's see the report," he said.
"Mr Page mentions the high workload of police in this area and the effect it has on them.
"Unfortunately there are too many officers on long-term sick leave or suffering burn-out and we need more police to help our officers cope.
"But what we also need is a death and disability scheme to help support those police and get them back to work.
"This is where Mr Page doesn't seem to get it.
"Instead of supporting his police, Mr Page and the Government are slashing the death and disability protections for injured police. This will only make our problems worse."