PSO increase: Bittersweet election promise from Napthine government

PSO Michelle Fallow enters Flinders Street station Copyright © Victoria Police. All rights reserved. Source: Victoria Police Image Library Photographer: Shane Bell.

PSO Michelle Fallow enters Flinders Street station
Copyright © Victoria Police. All rights reserved.
Source: Victoria Police Image Library
Photographer: Shane Bell.

The Napthine government has invested $212 million to recruit 940 Protective Services Officers by the time of this years state election.  

The largest recruitment exercise in boosting Victoria’s law and order stocks, aims to prevent the occurrence of violent and anti-social behaviour on Melbourne’s public transport.

Currently, there are 823 Protective Services Officers that patrol 131 stations in Victoria, from 6pm until the last scheduled train, seven days a week.

According to Prahran MP, Clem Newton Brown, building a safer Victoria remains a key priority of the Napthine government.

“Not everyone feels safe travelling on (Melbourne’s) public transport, particularly the elderly and women travelling alone at night.”

“Improving the perception of safety on public transport will encourage more people to take the train.”

Sergeant Chris Fuhrman from Victoria Police agrees with this sentiment.

“The main thing when you boil down to it is public safety. The amount of contact that PSO’s have with the general public is huge, in comparison to other members of Victoria police.”

Fuhrman works directly with the PSO recruitment team and says that the general public has welcomed their presence.

“Coming from frontline management in Eastern Melbourne, I have spoken to many people first hand and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.”

“The PSO initiative is one of the best things that Victoria Police and the state government has ever done.”

However, the Victorian Greens Party condemns the Coalition government’s investment in Protective Services Officers, voting against their implementation in 2012.

Richard Cranston, the Greens candidate for Warrandyte, says that Protective Services Officers are an inappropriate protectorate for Victoria’s public transport system.

“PSO’s have not made people feel safer nor have they helped reduce the prevalence of crime. PSO’s receive only 12 weeks of training but their powers are a lot similar to a fully-fledged police officer. They also address issues in a punitive manner.”

Cranston believes that PSO’s should be removed from Melbourne’s public transport network and replaced by squads of fully qualified police officers.

“Most instances of crime occur at 12 to 15 stations. We think that having a greater police presence at those stations is the way to go.”

The sizeable investment in PSO’s is in direct response to the ‘soft on crime approach’ of the former Labor government.

Victoria Police expects to receive $2.43 billion in funding from the Coalition government over the next two years, a 22% increase from Labor’s last budget in 2010.

“The community (has) told us loud and clear that they were sick and tired of inappropriate sentencing, breaches of parole and suspended sentences, amongst other things”, Clem Newton Brown says.

Nevertheless, the Labor party believes that the Napthine government’s approach towards crime has been completely ineffective.

“More people are turning to crime because the Liberal party has abandoned our communities and previously cut funds to Victoria Police”, Labor candidate for Prahran Neil Pharaoh says.

According to Pharaoh, the Coalition government is wasting funding by further investing in Protective Services Officers.

“Crime has increased every year under his dysfunctional Liberal government, because they have not supported our communities and they’ve made it harder for police to do their job.”

Crime statistics collated by Victoria Police largely support the ineffectiveness of the Napthine government in addressing criminal matters.

Statistics from Victoria Police suggest a lower prevalence of crime at public transport locations, under the previous Labor government.

From the final term of the Labor government to last financial year, there was an 11% increase in the amount of crime, within public transport locations.

The incidence of crime over the last two years, in particular, increased across almost every category.

Crime against person, specifically assault and robbery, rose by 3%, while the prevalence of drug and other offences (including harassment and behaviour in public) increased by 8% and 18% respectively.

However, crime against property fell by 6%

Next year, the Victorian Generals Office will perform an audit into public safety on Victoria’s public transport.

The audit will examine the effectiveness of PSO’s in reducing crime and improving commuter safety.

Time will tell as to whether the Coalition government’s funding in PSO’s is a worthwhile investment.

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