Inspector Michael Cruse fell in love with being a detective early on in his career.
He joined the Victorian police force straight out of high school and after graduating, spent the next five years stationed at Melbourne suburb Avondale Heights.
But during those five years, he spent much of it seconded to other units within the police force, investigating everything from drugs to Asian gangs.
“I fell in love with being a detective, to be honest,” he said.
“I really loved it. I loved using all of our resources and techniques and, at the time, and even today, the way you investigate is constantly changing with technology.”
It was Inspector Cruse’s first taste of being a detective and it was an experience that served him well, as three months ago he took up the lead role overseeing central Victoria’s investigations teams.
“This role is the investigations and response manager, so essentially I manage all of our investigative units in division five for the western region.”
The region stretches from Echuca in the north, Gisborne in the south, Maryborough in the west and Rushworth in the east.
Teams under Inspector Cruse include the Bendigo, Campaspe, Central Goldfields and Macedon Ranges crime investigation units; the central Victoria sexual offences and child abuse investigation team; the central Victoria response unit; and the central Victoria crime scene service.
In Inspector Cruse’s 17-year career, he’s taken up numerous roles within Victoria Police’s crime command, working in both the drug and armed crime taskforces before becoming a detective sergeant at the Echo taskforce, investigating outlaw motorcycle gangs.
“I’ve loved every minute really. There’s no times when I’ve thought about doing anything else,” he said.
“Those first few years in the police force were just terrific and really exciting.”
Inspector Cruse made the move to Melbourne after growing up on the New South Wales coast at Coffs Harbour.
He’s still not sure what originally lead him into the police force, but he applied while still at school after completing work experience at the local station.
“I've thought about it in the past but I actually can’t really remember why it was the case, but it just was,” he said.
One of Inspector Cruse’s most memorable cases was when he was at the armed crime taskforce.
A man and a woman had committed a series of armed robberies across Melbourne’s western suburbs and Inspector Cruse said it was a challenging case.
“They’d done five or six and we had no idea who they were,” he said.
“And so there was some pressures coming because we weren’t solving these crimes.”
Eventually the team was able to solve the case, catching the criminals “red-handed” attempting another armed robbery in Richmond.
“That brought the case to an end but it was a lot of hard work for a number of weeks and months,” Inspector Cruse said.
“I still look at those moments. At the time we were working with a really great team, which has been my experience throughout most of my career.”
Inspector Cruse’s 17 years in the police force has also involved time at the organisation’s Professional Standards Command and working as a staff officer to executive police.
“If a door opens, then I think you gain more by walking through it than not,” says Inspector Cruse of his philosophy in accepting new challenges in the force.
Last year, he made the choice to step up into an inspector role, upgrading at Geelong with a desire to influence positive change within Victoria Police.
He secured the investigations role at Bendigo in June, which was originally paired with tasking co-ordination but became too big of a job for one person.
So three months ago, Inspector Cruse took up the position and he describes it as a straight management role.
“I manage all of the investigations, so as the investigation comes in, sometimes we talk about how an investigations progressing, I approve search warrants, allocate investigations,” he said.
“For instance if you’ve got an area where there’s a spate of crimes happening then I need to move people into those areas so we can essentially reduce or stop the crimes from being committed.”
It was a scenario that played out as soon as Inspector Cruse arrived, with a spate of high volume crimes in Campaspe.
More police were sent to the region to help catch the offenders and reduce the crimes through the Campapse Crime Crackdown.
Inspector Cruse said going forward, he would like to see more proactivity in their response.
“What I’d like to see is utilising lots of our stakeholders and partners to have a bit of a holistic, proactive response to offenders,” he said.
“So we essentially prevent the crime before it occurs, rather than investigating it after it occurs, which in my mind is always more efficient and effective and significantly reduces the harm.”
Community forums and a youth summit are high on the list of things Inspector Cruse would like to implement during his time in the region and he encouraged the community to play a role in reducing crime.
“Truthfully witnesses coming forward and people telling us what’s occurring in their community is still in my belief the most effective tool we have,” he said.
“I’d ask them if they could report anything they see that is suspicious that is definitely going to help us in the future.”