Residents have slammed the NSW Government for its lack of policing resources to tackle rural crime across six Riverina shires.
Riverina resident Kerrie Johnston said policing was “so stretched that there is just one rural crime investigator between Griffith, Leeton, Bland, Carrathool, Narrandera and Hay”.
“An area that covers 49,250 square kilometres – it’s quite bizarre that we’ve got only one RCI ,” Mrs Johnston said.
“There’s not enough resources on the ground to help us – when we put calls into Griffith, most times they say they can’t help.
“Our RCI does a fantastic job, but there is just one of him.
“What do we do when he’s not on shift or when he’s investigating a matter in another shire?”
In September 2018, Cootamundra MP Steph Cooke and the Riverina Police District’s Superintendent Bob Noble hosted a rural crime in Temora.
At the forum, three new Cootamundra-based rural crime investigation members were introduced.
Mrs Johnston said she attended to raise the issue to bring changes.
“We were hoping that between the political powers that were there, it would’ve been a good platform to make changes,” shes aid.
“They acknowledged the fact but there was nobody there who could instigate changes.”
Similarly, Murrami resident Debbie Buller said her neighbours had difficulties in receiving police help.
“All have been frustrated with the process of reporting incidents...sometimes, there’s just no police available to help,” she said.
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party call on government to act
Griffith-based Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party spokeswoman Helen Dalton said the government needed to act on its own recommendation.
“In 2016, a major NSW Government review of rural crime policing recommended the number of RCIs be increased across the state and that standalone RCI squads be established,” Ms Dalton said.
“In 2017, the NSW Government told a Griffith forum hosted by NSW Farmers that it planned to fill an extra 11 RCI positions across the state.
“But one year later – we are still waiting – left with the one solitary RCI shared across six shires.”
Police minister: resources rolling out
In response, a spokesperson for Minister for Police Troy Grant said the SFFP needed to check facts before making criticism of the government.
“In line with eight recommendations provided by the Bradshaw Report – which was conducted to ensure police were appropriately structured and resourced to target increased challenges of rural crime – 11 dedicated RCIs have been allocated to rural or regional areas,” the spokesperson said.
“The NSW Government and NSW Police Force take rural crime very seriously, which is why in early 2017, Police Commissioner Fuller also created a new Deputy Commissioner Regional NSW Field Operations position.
“Our farmers are the lifeblood and backbone of this country – they are already doing it extremely tough with the drought and the theft of livestock and equipment further contributes to the hardship they are currently facing.”
Our farmers are the lifeblood and backbone of this country.Spokesperson for Minister for Police Troy Grant
The spokesperson also cited the government awarding more than $165,000 through the Community Safety Fund to the NSW Farmer’s Association to run 26 rural crime workshops across regional NSW.
“By investing in these workshops, we hope to see an increase in the number of crimes reported to police in rural and regional communities and provide farmers with tools to protect their businesses and improve their safety,” she said.
In 2017, the NSW Police Force rolled out Rural Crime Prevention Teams across the state to target, prevent and disrupt criminal activity affecting rural communities.
Between January and August this year, more than 160 rural crime offences have been detected and are currently before the courts.
The spokesperson for the Minister for Police said “police officers don’t need the need title of rural crime investigator to respond to rural crime offences”.
“RCIs are an additional resource to support officers within police districts across the state,” she said.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller is currently undertaking a detailed plan, in consultation with the Police Association NSW, to determine the number of officers that NSW needs for the future.
“This includes the duty types required and where they should be based,” the spokesperson said.