Wagga’s rising crime could be tackled via a ‘Community on Patrol’ program with residents actively monitoring neighbourhoods and reporting incidents to police.
That’s according former federal law enforcement officer and Wagga resident Matt Nolte, who has proposed that the city take inspiration from regional areas of Canada.
“Every second or third night there seems to be a significant incident, including theft of motor vehicles, arson with vehicles set alight and, recently, homes,” he said.
“This has been going on for a number of years.
“I believe that the community should take more of an active role in the observation and reporting of crime.”
Mr Nolte said his proposal would not involve participants intervening directly against suspected criminals.
“It could very well be people walking down the street or in a vehicle finding areas of concern,” he said.
“They would report (suspicious activity) to the police in the first instance.”
Moree in northern NSW started a similar program in 2017 with ‘Mobile Neighbourhood Watch’.
Wagga Neighbourhood Watch president Wayne Deaner said it was possible that he could support a concept like community patrols, but he would need assurances about training and safety measures.
“It’s something that Neighbourhood Watch has looked into before,” he said.
“If the police are looking for someone it may hinder an investigation, and that is where the police are going to draw the line.
“It’s going to need a lot of policies, procedures and support behind it.”
Mr Deaner said he was also concerned about a community patrol being targeted for reprisals by criminals caught in the act, given that police have had their vehicles rammed by car thieves.
Wagga Police’s senior officers were unavailable for comment prior to publication.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said some types of offences were on the rise and residents were worried about car theft, arson and crime targeting farms.
“If you look at the last decade, there does appear to be an increase in stolen vehicle and break and enter crime compared with other regions,” he said.
“First of all, we clearly need additional police numbers in Wagga, particularly around detective and anti-drug resources.
“There needs to be a discussion around bail laws and repeat offenders and we need a crime prevention taskforce that brings together (council) and non-government agencies, as well as residents.”
Dr McGirr said he agreed with Mr Nolte that crime prevention was crucial, but he did not commit to supporting community patrols.
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