Newcastle Electorate Law And Order
NEWCASTLE ELECTORATE LAW AND ORDER
Mr GAUDRY (Newcastle) [6.18]: I bring to the attention of the Minister for Police the concerns of my constituents at the extremely heavy workload imposed on the Newcastle police patrol in the city on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The undue workload arises from two distinct sources. First is the number and type of licensed premises operating in the city. There are 120 licensed premises in the Newcastle patrol and 40 are licensed for late trading. On Friday and Saturday nights thousands of young people come to the city to use the venues. Many of the patrons arrive after 11 p.m. and many are young. Police are frequently confronted by alcohol-related problems including drunken and offensive behaviour, assaults, damage to property, under-age drinking and removal of liquor from licensed premises. The policing of these matters places a heavy demand on police resources in my electorate. Unfortunately, many of the young people who come to the city cannot control their drinking habits and frequently get into difficulties. The local police are working with licensees in Newcastle to try to deal with these problems through a process of consultation and education about the responsibility of licensees to ensure sensible drinking behaviour on their premises.
The second source of work stress on the Newcastle patrol is large numbers of young drivers engaging in potentially unsafe motor vehicle sports - if I could use that word in inverted commas - in the Newcastle East and Nobbys Beach areas. Hundreds of young enthusiasts and spectators congregate there on some nights and create disturbance for residents, pressure for the Newcastle police and a potential danger to themselves and others. One of their activities is to pour oil and diesel on the road and then smoke their tyres and perform fishtails. The continuing practice of these young, inexperienced drivers performing stunts in a pool of oil while literally hundreds of young spectators crowd within metres of them certainly needs to be addressed. This situation has been of ongoing concern to residents, police and the Newcastle City Council, which is currently considering urgent traffic control measures to try to deal with the situation.
The seriousness of the situation and the workload it places on the police is emphasised by police action taken on 26 and 27 May. During this operation the police stopped vehicles that were committing offences and inspected them. Seventy-one vehicles were examined by the police, the Roads and Traffic
Authority and the Environment Protection Authority, and 68 were found to have some form of defect. Of these, six vehicles were found to have major defects and were not permitted to be driven from the inspection point. A further 19 vehicles were inspected and defected by the police but were not taken to the Carrington RTA. The police found a whole range of defects with the vehicles and were greatly concerned that although some vehicles had been passed by the RTA within the previous three months, illegal modifications had since been made to them.
To emphasise the seriousness and pressures that this puts upon police, five drivers were charged with driving in a manner dangerous to the public, five were charged with drink driving, a further 128 infringement notices were issued for defect offences, two drivers were reported for being unlicensed, one was a cancelled driver, and one vehicle was unregistered and uninsured. This is an indication of the seriousness of the offences and the enormous pressure placed upon police. I draw these concerns to the attention of the Minister for Police and ask that in his review of policing numbers he take into consideration both the difficulties of police dealing with licensed premises in the Newcastle police patrol and this extra difficulty of dealing with large numbers of young people in defective vehicles engaging in these potentially dangerous practices. [Time expired.]
Mr WHELAN (Ashfield - Minister for Police) [6.23]: The honourable member for Newcastle is a tireless and dedicated advocate for the people in his electorate. He has raised several matters of concern which relate to pressures on police in Newcastle, and he can be assured that I will raise them with the Commissioner of Police. I have sought information on the operation that the honourable member referred to. Drag racing up and down main streets is totally unacceptable to this Government. Not only is it dangerous, it shows a blatant disregard for the law.
I have been advised that Operation Cress, which was carried out in Newcastle last weekend, is part of an ongoing traffic operation to combat illegal street racing and defective vehicles around the foreshore and the east end of Newcastle. Four operations have been conducted, with the most significant being on 19 and 20 May and 26 and 27 May. Officers from the Roads and Traffic Authority and the Environment Protection Authority assisted police on these occasions. On the four evenings a total of 111 vehicles were inspected by the RTA and 108 were found to be defective. The EPA inspected 98 vehicles and found 65 to be defective. This operation was extremely effective. The residents of Newcastle can rest assured that under the Carr Labor Government community safety will be a top priority.
The Government's commitment to increasing the authorised strength of the Police Service by 500 from 12,907 to 13,407 over the next four years is one of Labor's many law and order initiatives which will improve community safety in New South Wales. An additional 100 police will join the service on 1 July. We will also make an additional 150 police officers available for police work by replacing officers now doing clerical work or prisoner escorts. I assure the honourable member for Newcastle that the people of the Hunter will get their fair share of benefit from the Government's commitment and I thank him for raising his concerns with me tonight.