IT IS no secret that crime in Bendigo has risen substantially in recent years as our community grapples with causal factors such as drug use, unemployment and high cost of living.
Recorded crime in the Greater Bendigo region increased a staggering 28.9 per cent in 2016, with offences jumping from 8400 to 10,828, according to Victoria Police’s own statistics.
There is little to suggest that the statistics for 2017, when they are released next year, will show a dramatic reversal in this trend, if the first half of the year is any indication.
This spike in crime, which is not isolated to Bendigo but present across many parts of the state, has led to a lot of finger-pointing and chest-beating at a political level.
The Opposition is campaigning tirelessly to paint the Andrews government as “soft on crime” ahead of next year’s election and has pledged to introduce a new mandatory sentencing regime if elected.
In response, Labor is fighting back with its own plan to crackdown on criminals, in a bid to shake off that most unwanted of titles hanging over its head.
The judiciary has also come under scrutiny, with the sentences handed down by magistrates and judges in our courts – particularly to repeat offenders – failing to marry with public expectation.
This means that the people our police officers risk their lives to catch are all too often back on the streets and free to continue their offending.
There is no silver bullet to addressing the soaring crime rate we are experiencing in this community. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to mislead you.
But amid all the spin, emotion and rhetoric, there are some logical and practical measures that can be introduced to reduce the number of victims of crime.
For example, if Bendigo had its own dog squad, would officers have been able to collar the two alleged criminals who led them a merry dance around the city on Thursday?
There is little doubt valuable time was lost waiting for the dog squad to arrive from Melbourne when one of the offenders was pinned down in a section of East Bendigo.
Surely central Victoria is big enough and important enough to warrant having a dog squad based here. After all, a crime committed in Bendigo is just as serious as a crime committed in Melbourne.
This is an issue our two Bendigo MPs should get behind.
- Ross Tyson, deputy editor