The Riverina Police District has welcomed a new statewide specialist team targeting high-risk drivers who pose a significant threat to the community.
Strike Force Puma, established by the NSW Police Force Traffic and Highway Patrol Command, was announced by Traffic and Highway Patrol Commander Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy and Minister for Police Troy Grant on Friday, June 29.
The strike force focuses on drivers with a history of licence offences and a repeated history of drink- and drug-driving offences, as well as drivers with extreme and erratic behaviours.
The team also uses information from law-enforcement agencies and video footage from sources such as social media and dash cam to investigate and prosecute motorists.
Wagga Police Superintendent Bob Noble said repeat traffic offenders were a problem in the Riverina that needed to be addressed.
“We certainly hope that this new initiative will help drive down the traffic-offending rates in the region,” Superintendent Noble said.
“It [Strike Force Puma] will be a consistent approach across the state to not let repeat offenders continue doing the wrong things,” he said.
Similarly, police district’s Inspector Rob Vergano said the initiative would ensure the community becomes safer.
“Our local police and highway patrol command continually target those driver, so this added resources would help that,” he said.
We certainly hope that this new initiative will help drive down the traffic-offending rates in the region.Bob Noble, Superintendent of Riverina Police District
During the announcement in Sydney, Assistant Commissioner Corboy said the horror road toll during the previous Christmas and New Year was one of the catalysts for the initiative.
He cited specifically the head-on crash claiming five lives, including four members of the Falkholt family near Sussex Inlet on December 26, 2017.
“This is a new strategy to specifically target recidivist traffic offenders and those who ignore regular traffic enforcement,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.
“So far this year, 169 people have died in 158 crashes, and of those, six people were killed by drivers who were unlicensed, disqualified or suspended.
“We will not tolerate high risk and irresponsible driving behaviour that puts other road users at risk.”
The team, including general duties and specialist officers, will operate in metropolitan and regional areas across the state as part of a strategy to target recidivist traffic offenders on the road.
“We need the assistance of the public and we want anyone on the road who witnesses dangerous and menacing driving, such as overtaking several cars across double unbroken lines and narrowly avoiding other vehicles, or has footage of it to contact local police or Crime Stoppers,” Assistant Commissioner Corboy said.
“The community needs to work with us to bring about a cultural change in driver attitude and behaviour.”
Minister Grant welcomed the new proactive police unit targeting our state’s worst drivers.
“All too often, high-risk drivers and repeat offenders are jumping behind the wheel only to flout the road rules once again and put other people’s lives in danger,” Mr Grant said.
“The NSW Police Force already has specialist units to proactively target repeat offenders of other crimes such as domestic violence, and they are now applying this disruptive and targeted approach to high-risk drivers.
“Too many people have already lost lives on NSW roads this year. I urge people to slow down, follow the road rules and think about how their actions can affect the safety of others on the roads.”
NSW Police data related to recidivist traffic offenders in the Riverina was not available.