The safety of every community should be a right, regardless of location.
However, in certain rural, regional, and remote communities in NSW, mounting concerns over law and order and community safety are impossible to ignore.
At our November meeting, the CWA of NSW state executive voted unanimously to join the call by the NSW Country Mayors Association (CMA), Police Association of New South Wales (PANSW) and NSW Farmers for a parliamentary inquiry into regional crime.
The collaborative efforts of these organisations have sounded the alarm on the deteriorating state of crime, law and order in regional NSW.
Even though roughly one third of the population of NSW live in regional areas, there persists an unsettling feeling of being treated as second-class citizens when it comes to the safety of our communities. It is crucial we feel safe and the time for change is now.
According to CMA chairman Jamie Chaffey, residents in rural, regional, and remote NSW face a higher likelihood of being victims of sexual assault, car theft, home break-ins, and domestic violence.
Compounding these issues, the response from law enforcement is often hampered by resource limitations. It is distressing to note that up to 90 per cent of such crimes occur within our regional communities. These statistics alone should spur us into action.
The report by CMA, backed by NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research data and supported by PANSW and NSW Farmers, evidences the pressing need for a comprehensive review.
The report stresses the need for additional police resources to combat escalating crime rates and ensure communities receive efficient service.
Police officers in regional areas are entrusted with responding to emergencies across large areas, often with inadequate staff and resources. It is inexcusable that when support is called upon, assistance may be an hour or more away. We must reassess staffing levels and allocate resources that align with the current demands.
Equally critical is addressing the issue of police carrying out other government department responsibilities. While police work tirelessly to safeguard communities, they should not be burdened with the transportation of prisoners across vast distances. It is imperative that other departments take responsibility for their duties.
For NSW Farmers, concerns go beyond the statistics outlined in the report. Farming businesses face the constant risk of livestock and equipment theft, trespassing, break-ins, and illegal hunting. A 2020 survey found that a staggering 81pc of farmers are victims of farm-related crimes.
The establishment of the Rural Crime Prevention Team is a commendable step forward, but it is obvious that further resources are essential to safeguard our rural landscapes.
Despite the evidence and the fact that four major organisations representing regional residents have publicly joined this call, NSW Premier Chris Minns and the Minister for Police Yasmin Catley seem intent on turning a blind eye to the problem refusing to back an inquiry into regional crime.
CWA of NSW urges state leaders to listen to their regional constituents and take action to review the extent of the problem in regional NSW. Our communities deserve the same level of service as our metropolitan counterparts - our safety, security and wellbeing depend on it.
- Joy Beames, CWA of NSW president