On May 18 I spoke in State Parliament on the important work of the Sturt Police Station and SAPOL's plans to reduce the hours of operation of this vital community service. You can read my speech below.
Mr WINGARD (Mitchell) (15:21): I rise today to speak on the wonderful work of the Sturt Police Station and my concerns about SAPOL's proposal to change its hours of operation. The Sturt Police Station is a vital service in my community and the surrounding suburbs. The police and staff must be congratulated on their outstanding service to the community. The Sturt Police Station is a well-respected local service. They do wonderful work, and I want to ensure that they can continue to do so in the future.
SAPOL's internal review has suggested that the Sturt Police Station halves its hours of operation, from being a 24-hour station to opening between 9am and 9pm. They were seven days a week and 24 hours a day, and now they are going to seven days from 9am to 9pm. My office speaks to many staff at the Sturt Police Station on a regular basis, from the admin officers to senior sergeants and everyone in between. Knowing we have the support of the local police station just up the road is important to my office and my community.
I can also speak on behalf of the members for Davenport, Bright and Morphett who I know work regularly with the Sturt Police Station, and they think they do a fantastic job. I know the federal Liberal candidate, Nicole Flint, has also contacted my office concerned about the reduction in hours, and it has been raised with her in our community as well.
Domestic violence is an issue in all of our communities, and many of my constituents contact me with their own stories and experiences of domestic violence. With a reduction in the opening hours of the Sturt Police Station, I am concerned that constituents of mine seeking a safe place will no longer be able to go and take refuge at the Sturt Police Station. However, my main concern is that we may be embarking on a slippery slope. This time next year, will we see 9am to 9pm reduced to Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm? How far down the path are these service reductions going to go?
As we know, it is impossible to unscramble the egg once these changes have been made. Twelve months ago, eight metropolitan police stations closed and we are now being told that another 10 stations will have changes to their hours of operation. This includes reducing seven metropolitan stations from being open seven days a week to now just Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.
When the Hallett Cove Police Station closed its doors 12 months ago, I wrote to the police minister about the concerns of Sheidow Park and Trott Park residents. Many constituents contacted me concerned about the increased graffiti around the suburbs and on the brand-new Hallett Cove library. At the time, I was assured there would be added police presence in the area to compensate for the closure of the police shopfront at the Hallett Cove shopping centre. Importantly, SAPOL's review notes:
While a 'front office' may be closed, this does not preclude response police deploying from the building over a 24/7 period to provide a mobile policing response.
That is vital and we need that in our area. If the shopfronts or the police stations are going to close, we need to ensure that 24-hour police response to make sure that our community feels safe. From my own experience, I have been down to the police station trying to obtain a police clearance. Also, when we go to get these DCSI checks, we know how long that drags on and we need to be able to access the police station for these police clearances so we can coach the local football teams and be involved in our community. Of course, some people need to do this out of hours so they can contribute back to our community.
Earlier this week, we heard that the crime statistics in Adelaide indicate that theft and fraud are on the rise. SAPOL's figures show that theft offences rose by 9 per cent in SA last year, averaging more than 115 incidents across the state each day. In the Sturt area alone, there were over 6,500 theft and related offences. It was interesting to note too that the Law Society's SA President, David Caruso, said that the rise in theft, fraud and deception offences was likely linked to the state's rising unemployment rates and economic decline.
We know that South Australia has for over 12 months now sat at the bottom of the unemployment table under this Weatherill Labor government, and it is an absolute disgrace that we are languishing so far behind all of the other states. Again, we can see the link with unemployment across to increased rates of crime in the areas, so it is something to be concerned about, as the Law Society SA President states.
I understand the need to balance efficient policing with administrative services, but I want to assure the people in my community that I will fight to ensure that our community services that we value and rely on will remain in our area. I will do everything I can to ensure our community has the best cover and protection from our police service and that our hardworking officers have all the support they deserve.