Candidates pitch ways to curb crime

Tom ZaunmayrPilbara News
Police outside the South Hedland shopping centre.
Camera IconPolice outside the South Hedland shopping centre. Credit: North West Telegraph, Taylar Amonini

More resources, private security, community policing and drug strategies have been pitched to tackle the perceived rise in crime across the Pilbara ahead of the State Election.

Antisocial behaviour has been in the spotlight recently, particularly in South Hedland where recent CCTV footage of a brawl outside the shopping centre revealed the scale of the problem local authorities were dealing with.

Pilbara Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Fiona White-Hartig said she would push to set up private security patrols, as well as get more police on the beat across the Pilbara.

“I have been told crime has spiked 23 per cent over last year’s figures in the City of Karratha and I would expect similar, if not more, in Port Hedland,” she said.

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“The nature of policing has changed dramatically — we need a higher presence of police to deal with intricacies such as domestic violence and increases in drug abuse.

“We can’t keep burying our heads in the sand. There needs to be a strong but holistic stance coming from all sectors of the community.”

Pilbara Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Fiona White-Hartig.
Camera IconPilbara Shooters, Fishers and Farmers candidate Fiona White-Hartig. Credit: Marg Bertling/Pilbara Site Pics.

Ms White-Hartig said private security patrols would be a deterrent to loitering, which she said had been a major cause of alcohol-related antisocial behaviour recently.

She said although a partnership between the liquor accord and elders in Newman had curbed alcohol abuse, drugs remained a big issue.

Pilbara MLA and WA Nationals leader Brendon Grylls said he did not believe private security patrols would discourage antisocial behaviour.

“I think it makes people feel slightly better, but I don’t think it makes much difference,” he said.

“Calling for more police is a throwaway line from candidates who haven’t actually had the job of running the State. I think there is a big dichotomy in asking for more police officers and opposing a new revenue source that could actually pay for them.” Mr Grylls said he would announce plans to boost effectiveness of community policing ahead of the election.

Labor Member for Mining and Pastoral Stephen Dawson said a good first step would be to change the layout of the South Hedland shops where a taxi rank, ATM and bottle shop were right next to each other.

“It’s not just a case of more police or better resourcing — it is also to do with better policy,” he said.

Labor Member for Mining and Pastoral Stephen Dawson and Pilbara candidate Kevin Michel.
Camera IconLabor Member for Mining and Pastoral Stephen Dawson and Pilbara candidate Kevin Michel. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

Mr Dawson said WA Labor’s hard-line policy on meth dealing showed the party was serious about tackling drug use and crime.

“It is not an easy problem to fix, but this mob has had eight and half years and they have done nothing,” he said. “I have sat outside a house where people come and go — they are taxied in work vans to do what looks like buying drugs.”

Mr Dawson said Labor’s policy also featured measures to provide better access to rehabilitation and detox services for those committing minor offences.

Pilbara Liberal candidate Mark Alchin said revenue may need to be prioritised away from various projects to tackle what he described as a “priority issue”.

“Things are in crisis here — when you have such a high level of domestic violence, you need an intervention strategy,” he said.

“That deals with the immediate issue, but the broader fix is about getting these people once they have sobered up back into work.”

Mr Alchin said drug use was an issue right across regional WA.

“When people don’t have a purpose or a job, they will turn to substance to numb the pain,” he said.

“The State Government can’t fix all the issues, we have to get community and local government involved.”

Greens candidate Brent McKenna said the party would look to tackle the drivers of crime, such as drugs, rather than focusing on penalties.

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