PSOs to help Vic police tackle virus

Victoria's transport Protective Service Officers will bolster police during the coronavirus crisis.
Victoria's transport Protective Service Officers will bolster police during the coronavirus crisis.

Protective services officers will be redeployed from Victoria's public transport system into communities to boost police resources amid the coronavirus crisis.

Operation Shielding will start from Thursday and involve 200 PSOs patrolling major activity centres in Melbourne and regions including Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.

"It's a really common sense way to use our PSOs, who are not currently required or are being under-utilised on our public transport network," Police Minister Lisa Neville told reporters on Monday.

The PSOs will help police ensure public safety, particularly for people such as healthcare workers who have to be out in public.

They will also provide foot patrols in commercial and shopping areas.

Ms Neville said there had been an increase in commercial burglary given so many people are working from home.

PSOs will exercise all of their existing powers, including the ability to arrest, Deputy Police Commissioner Shane Patton said.

They do not have the power to issue fines for breaches of social distancing and gatherings, but he said that is set to change.

"We are in the process of having that delegation signed off by the chief commissioner and by the time they are deployed they will be in a position to issue fines for breaches of these restrictions," he said.

The redeployment will not affect staffing at major transport hubs, with PSOs continuing to work at 83 train stations.

They will also still be on the public transport network.

Australian Associated Press