Alstonville winning war on crime
BOB WILSON had had enough.
Like many Alstonville residents, Mr Wilson was sick of waking in the morning to find windows smashed along the main street, lounges left in the middle of the roundabout, and sprinklers at the town's war memorial ripped out of the ground.
When newly-appointed police inspector Greg Moore offered to drop by for a coffee to discuss the problem, the chairman of the ratepayers' association jumped at the chance.
It was at this meeting that the two men hatched a plan to encourage residents to collaborate with police in a bid to reduce vandalism and other anti-social behaviour.
“It's been a great success,” Mr Wilson said.
He said if young people were aware that people in the community were watching them, it helped to reduce incidents of vandalism and alcohol-related crime.
The statistics agree. While crime across the State is falling, the decline was far steeper in Alstonville.
Police figures reveal assaults were down to an average of one a month from seven last year, break-and-enters are generally falling, and reports of malicious damage and stealing have halved.
The dramatic fall in crime is despite police numbers on the Northern Rivers being below the State average, with only two full-time officers in Alstonville.
Mr Wilson said since consultations between the community and police began about 18 months ago, the feeling was that community safety had improved.
The consultation is simple enough: The community is encouraged to call the police whenever they see trouble brewing.
“It means we can get to potential trouble spots and resolve it before trouble starts,” Insp Moore said.
“The community are right on board. They are our eyes and ears.”
The collaboration was also proving effective in other more crime-prone areas, Insp Moore said.
He has adopted the model across Lennox Head, Ballina and Wardell.
These areas have recorded similar falls in crime as Alstonville.
“It's a lot of meetings and a lot of work, but it's worth it,” Insp Moore said.
“At times people can feel frustrated and feel 'what's the point of ringing the cops', but if they don't we can't do our job effectively.”
Mr Wilson said it was crucial for the community to get behind the police in the fight against anti-social behaviour.