By ERWIN CHLANDA
Police Minister Nicole Manison (pictured) casts a wide net in her bid to justify that the Territory has the nation’s highest per-capita number of police officers, including three times as many in the Southern Command area, while public outrage over the level of crime is intensifying.
How come we have excessive crime, year after year, the Alice Springs News asked her in an exclusive interview on Friday.
MANISON: We also have the highest level of poverty in this nation, and overcrowded housing. It’s those systemic issues that lead to crime and anti-social behaviour. As a government we do everything we can to support people in Alice Springs tackling these issues.
In the short term we have record numbers of police and budget. We have invested heavily. In the past four years are more consequences and more programs: If we think we can turn around a kid from the pathway of crime we put them in programs to get them on a better track.
We now have youth outreach officers. We’re also investing in correctional facilities such as the one in Alice Springs as well as building a new Don Dale.
We know when we get kids in the first 1000 days of their lives we will have the biggest impact on their trajectory.
NEWS: We’ve been saying all these things for the past 10 years or more.
MANISON: It’s fair to say these issues have not occurred over night. There have always been issues to do with poverty in the NT, with our remoteness, our isolation. There is no overnight solution. There is no silver bullet. It’s just shoulder to the wheel, doing what you can, using evidence based approaches. There are also non-government organisations, Federal Government, councils. It’s a big issue but we’re doing everything we can.
NEWS: What is the government’s policy on police granting bail to children committing serious crimes. People are saying no sooner are children caught and charged, they are released and commit further crime.
MANISON: We have 30 young people on remand. They have been sent to detention because of the seriousness of the crime [they are alleged to have committed]. Every crime is assessed on the criminal history, on what the actual seriousness of the crime is [before] a person is sent to detention or if bail is granted.
NEWS: How many young people are on remand detention in Central Australia?
MANISON: I don’t have those numbers for you.
NEWS: What is the budget for bottle shop cops?
MANISON: I don’t have the numbers here. The Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors [PALIs] have been a really important body of work. I did not think it was OK to have a constable standing in front of a bottle shop, or even [someone] more senior than that. That wasn’t what they signed up for. So we created the PALI model. They had a very strong impact, particularly here in The Centre, as we’ve seen with the COVID flow-through of money, people accessing more alcohol [which] created more problems with domestic violence and aggravated assaults. We are working very hard with that.
NEWS: Should the alcohol industry bear the costs of the PALIs?
MANISON: I think the community has told us they are OK with government funding that.
NEWS: No doubt the industry would – you are saving them money.
MANISON: I don’t have anyone knocking down my door about industry funding it, I’ve have had really strong support for the PALIs. I think people would see a big impact if they wouldn’t have them.
NEWS: Do you conduct cost benefit assessments? Through the Department of Justice you publish monthly crime figures. Do you compare these and our cost for police with the national equivalent figures?
MANISON: I don’t think you can necessarily compare statistics with what’s happening in the Territory. It’s important to look at the underlying factors. We have the largest proportion of Aboriginal people. We have very big remote areas that we have to service. We also have the largest amount of poverty and health issues. They add up to community safety issues.
With regards to cost benefit, the way I look at it, I look at the statistics coming through, and when the PALIs got fully rolled out to full proportion here we could see protective custody incidences plummet, we could see [people in] the emergency department drop significantly, and the feedback we’re getting from the health services. There is a big cost but it’s difficult to cost the long term benefit.
NEWS: What about the three times greater police numbers? Where is the cost benefit?
MANISON: We have the highest proportion of police per head in the nation, but it would be fair to say that I always get feedback from people that they want strong police numbers. If you were to reduce the numbers of police, that would be disastrous. We already know we have the biggest number of police officers [per capita] in the nation so we do spend more proportionally. That’s just the reality of it.
NEWS: Do we get value for money?
MANISON: Our police work incredibly hard and I do believe they are doing a fantastic job.
Meanwhile Shadow Minister for Alcohol Policy Gerard Maley, in an attack on the alcohol floor price favoured by the Gunner Government, says its own study shows that total alcohol consumption only dropped in regions where PALIs were stationed at bottle shops, and saw no decline in areas where PALIs don’t man takeaway liquor outlets.
“This data does not support a minimum floor price – this data supports the use of Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors,” he says.
PALIs are only on takeaway outlets outside of Darwin and Palmerston. In Darwin and Palmerston, there are no PALIs.
PHOTOS: The ABC reported that this car crashed early on Friday. The force of the crash on the median strip of Telegraph Terrace just south of Billygoat Hill was such that it tore the engine from its mountings and flattened the roof. “Police believe speed was a factor and say that when officers arrived at the scene they were unable to locate anybody in the car or in the area,” says the ABC.
No further details are available from the police whose media section provides the following automatic email response: “The on-call officer is rostered for the purposes of emergencies and major events only. If the matter is urgent please contact the on-call mobile 0417 770 686.” (There was no answer on that number.)
“Otherwise we will response to your email the following business day. Please visit our Facebook page for any updates relating to matters involving Police, Fire or Emergency Services.” There is no update on the police Facebook page about this incident which clearly put the public into mortal danger.
Related reading: Society stops crime, not the police.
UPDATE February 15, 1.20pm
Police Media has provided the following statement about the crash: Police and fire crews responded to a single vehicle crash on Stuart Highway / Telegragh Terrace at 4:48am on Friday.
Crews conducted a thorough search of the vehicle and surrounding area by no one was found. Checks revealed the vehicle was not reported as stolen. The vehicle is registered to a car dealership.
Inquiries were made to the hospital, but no one has presented with injuries which would correlate with a car crash.
Police urge anyone with information in relation to the incident to call 131 444.
UPDATE February 15, 2.55pm
Opposition Leader Lia Finocchiaro says she will focus on escalating crime and government’s “devastating economic mismanagement” when Parliament resumes this week.
“Last week the Police Commissioner revealed property crime has spiked by up to 50% in Alice Springs and Tennant Creek. The Commissioner also revealed 75% of offenders dealt with by members of Strike Force Viper are repeat offenders,” says Ms Finocchiaro in a media statement.
“Labor has racked up an $8.4 billion net debt with nothing to show for it. The only plan we’ve heard from this government, is to try and tax its way back to prosperity by slugging Territorians fees to enjoy our parks.”