Shadow police minister Edward O’Donohue said the Liberal Party is examining the benefits of having Protective Service Officers patrol in Hargreaves Mall following a series of commitments in other regional centres.
The Opposition has pledged to introduce PSOs in Ballarat’s shopping strip and transport hubs in Geelong and Traralgon if elected.
Speaking in Bendigo this week, Mr O’Donohue said: “We recognise that there's been long-standing issues in the mall that the Andrews government hasn't addressed.”
“We want to see a safe environment for retailers and customers in the CBD and mall area.
"We've made some announcements about PSOs and we'll have more to come between now and the election."
Legislation introduced in May 2017 broadened the role of PSOs from patrolling at train stations to other transport centres and crime hot spots, but the changes have mainly applied to metropolitan areas.
Bendigo has five PSOs which operate at the Bendigo Railway Station.
Liberal and National candidates for Bendigo East Ian Ellis and Gaelle Broad were both of the opinion a greater police presence was necessary in the mall.
Ms Broad did however suggest the issue with vacancy rates and reinvigorating the space was more complex than increasing the number of police on the ground.
“Some people have told me they are too scared to do their banking in the mall and it’s very concerning, but the mall is certainly a complex issue, there's no doubt about that,” she said.
While reluctant to comment on political promises, Inspector Shane Brundell said various police units had been tasked with increasing their presence in the shopping strip over the past 12 months.
He said based on data, not a lot of reported crime occurred at the Hargreaves Mall, but Inspector Brundell accepted people had a sense of uneasiness with some of the behaviour displayed.
“Prevention is far better than cure. We need to work with the community and other partner agencies to come up with sustainable, preventative strategies and improve community safety, not just in that area but across the municipality,” he said.
As part of a surveillance boost across the CBD, the City of Greater Bendigo recently installed a further 16 CCTV cameras in the mall, which now has 21 cameras.
State and federal government grants totalling more than $350,000 allowed the COGB to increase its suite of CCTV cameras from 23 to 123 across the city centre.
Inspector Brundell said the changes had improved police’s ability to prosecute offenders.
A Bendigo Advertiser poll held in April 2017 asked the question whether readers would like to see PSOs in Hargreaves Mall, 92 per cent of the 514 respondents said ‘yes’.
Police minister Lisa Neville said PSOs have already started to patrol trains, and as more PSOs became operational they will be progressively rolled out to other modes of transport and public places like Hargreaves Mall.
“The Liberals didn’t fund one extra police officer and cut funding from frontline justice staff when they were in government – and they’ll do it again if they get the chance,” she said.
“We are giving local police the resources they need to solve crime - an additional 10 police officers have been allocated to the Bendigo area and are being delivered by the Andrews Labor government.”