Town regroups on safety

Headshot of Laura Newell
Laura NewellNorth West Telegraph

In the wake of concern about antisocial behaviour, the Town of Port Hedland will decide tonight whether to reactivate the town’s Community Safety and Crime Prevention Committee.

The committee, which was disbanded in 2013 because of falling attendance and lack of funding, would help to draft a new community safety and crime plan and hire a full-time officer to support the group’s priorities.

Members would include: WA Police; the departments of Housing, Health, Premier and Cabinet, Child Protection and Regional Development — Regional Services Reform; BHP Billiton; Fortescue Metals Group; Roy Hill; the Port Hedland Liquor Accord chairman; Youth Involvement Council; and Regional Development Australia (Pilbara).

The cost of the proposal is $870,000 over three years, with no funding allocated in the 2016-17 budget.

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The Town would be urged to find external funding to foot the bill for two-thirds of the proposal. A report from the Town’s new chief executive David Pentz admitted community safety in Port Hedland “has appeared to decline in real terms in the past several months, based on community feedback and emergency service statistics” with substance abuse listed as a “major contributor”.

The findings of a review in mid-December by consultancy firm RFF, looking at the issue of community safety, were also included in Mr Pentz’s report.

It included statistics provided by South Hedland police listing concerning figures such as one in five Hedland drivers testing positive for drugs in one blitz.

Information from the police also said “all domestic violence causes included misuse of alcohol or drugs”, and that there had been an 11 per cent rise in the number of call-outs with 80 per cent of jobs involving alcohol or other drugs and a “recent blitz saw 550 children walking the streets” between 9pm and 5am on 19 separate nights.

RSS review recommendations included conducting more research into alcohol and drug misuse in the Hedland area, looking at how other towns handle such issues and identifying gaps in service provision for facilities such as sobering-up shelters, women’s refuges and detox centres for children.

The recommendations also looked at reducing the supply of alcohol while acknowledging “any change to restrict the supply of alcohol will be unpopular and unlikely to be supported by the community and by industry, therefore a communications strategy must be framed that ensures the constant community engagement, education and marketing before the implementation of any program”.

In his report, Mr Pentz said re-forming the committee and development of a revised plan for the next three years would provide an affordable way for the Town to help improve and increase public confidence in community safety.

He said he expected the plan would be ready for endorsement by June.

“Community safety incorporates numerous factors in addition to substance abuse, including such matters as crime and road safety, graffiti, vandalism and littering,” Mr Pentz said in the report.

“A co-ordinated response across numerous agencies is also important given the legislative responsibilities for various issues affecting community safety which are not within the powers of local government.

“The revised plan should specifically consider advocating for State Government or Federal Government intervention through legislative means (liquor supply restrictions, welfare management controls).”

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