Crime in the North

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Crime in the North

Northern Victoria is one of the state’s largest regions, stretching from the South Australian border to the upper Murray close to New South Wales.

More than 100,000 square kilometers of landscape spans the Victorian Alps, popular ski resorts and some of Victoria’s best wine and fruit production regions.

Big area doesn’t mean more crime

Northern Victoria is also home to four of the state’s 10 most populated cities in Bendigo, Shepparton, Mildura and Wodonga. However, crime statistics analysed by the RACV show that a large town does not necessarily result in a higher crime rate.

Of those four cities, both Shepparton (one in 42 homes burgled) and Mildura (one in 46 homes burgled) are riskier than the statewide average of one in 67 homes. Greater Bendigo (one in 94 homes burgled) and Wodonga (one in 83 homes burgled) are both safer than the average Victorian local government area (LGA).

Bendigo takes proactive approach

City of Greater Bendigo Mayor, Cr Rod Fyffe says his local area – which has a population of more than 100,000 – has benefited from a range of proactive initiatives to improve community safety.

“The City of Greater Bendigo takes a proactive approach to public safety by engaging with Victoria Police, businesses and community organisations to come up with practical solutions,” he says.

The Bendigo Safe Communities Forum was established in 1995 and is an important vehicle in coordinating community safety initiatives. The forum’s key aims include reducing harm relating to alcohol and drugs, preventing violence against women and children and improving the safety of children and young people.

Mayor Cr Fyffe says most of the community safety measures implemented throughout Greater Bendigo have been developed through the Safe Communities Forum.

This includes a $700,000 Safe Transport Space, which opened in 2013 and provides a safe place for patrons in the city’s late-night entertainment precinct to wait for a taxi. Free Wi-Fi is provided and the space is open 24 hours a day and staffed by security personnel on Sunday mornings.

Bendigo’s central business district is also monitored by a CCTV system.

“The CCTV network records data 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with live vision streamed directly to Bendigo Police Station. Bendigo Police can access the cameras any time they require,” Cr Fyffe says.

Three in top 10 riskiest

Other councils within Northern Victoria include Macedon Ranges (one in 106 homes burgled), Swan Hill (one in 122 homes burgled), Wangaratta (one in 172 homes burgled), Towong (one in 243 homes burgled) and Alpine (one in 498 suburbs).

In terms of individual postcodes, Northern Victoria has three of the top 10 riskiest postcodes of the 373 postcodes in regional Victoria. These are 3630 (Shepparton, the riskiest postcode in regional Victoria), 3549 (Robinvale) and 3500 (Mildura).

Northern Victoria also home to safest

Conversely, Northern Victoria also has some of the statistically safest postcodes in regional Victoria. These include 3856 (Swan Hill), 3555 (Kangaroo Flat), 3498 (Irmpyle), 3441 (Mount Macedon), 3737 (Myrtleford), 3741 (Bright) and 3672 (Benalla).

Improvements in Shepparton

Shepparton may be one of the riskiest LGAs in regional Victoria, but locals are confident that with the community’s assistance they can see a positive shift.

In recent months, Shepparton has benefited from eight new custody officers promised by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews at the last state election. In June, Crime Stoppers launched a Dob in a Dealer campaign in Shepparton to combat a rise in drug-related offences. The last time a similar campaign was held in the area it resulted in a 400 per cent increase in drug-related information reports.

Family violence on the rise in Shepparton

Shepparton Police Inspector Haynd Downes says while theft from vehicles and houses remains a problem, one of the most significant policing issues in the area is a rise in family violence incidents. Between March 2015 and April 2016, he says, there were almost 1500 incidents in the region.

“One of Victoria Police’s 32 family violence teams is located in Shepparton. This team is there to focus on high risk and repeat incidences of this terrible crime,” he says.

“We have also seen increases in the number of drug offences in the area, [which is] due to police proactively targeting this crime type.”

Inspector Downes recommends Shepparton residents keep up to date with local news and alerts via the Eyewatch – Greater Shepparton Police Service Area page, which is followed by more than 11,000 people.

Even the odds

RACV general manager home services, Aaron Flavell, says regardless of whether someone lives in a statistically safe or risky postcode, they can take steps to prevent themselves becoming a victim of crime.

“Theft from vehicles is on the rise and there are some simple things all drivers can do to keep their car as safe as possible – like keeping the doors locked at all times, even when driving, and removing valuables from sight,” he says.

RACV recommends installing a home security system with back-to-base monitoring as well as a CCTV surveillance system.

If you’re unable to install a CCTV system, you can still do some simple things to reduce the likelihood of being burgled.

“Residents should ensure they should always remain vigilant and lock their doors and windows, even when home,” Aaron says.

He says it’s important to take steps to upgrade perimeter security to reduce the risk of burglary or even a home invasion.  

“Upgrade door locks, install security doors or window film and consider installing an intercom system to monitor people coming to the front door,” Aaron says   

“Be careful answering doors to strangers as burglaries while people are at home are on the rise.”

Story: Kathryn Kernohan

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