POLICE have implemented a number of initiatives in an effort to drive down crime in Hepburn Shire.
It comes after Crime Statistics Agency data released last week revealed that offences had risen in the region in the last year.
Overall offences had increased from 754 in the year to March 2019 to 886 in the year to March 2020. It is a 17.5 per cent increase.
Daylesford had an 11 per cent increase in reported offences.
The top five offences recorded across the shire were theft, stealing from a motor vehicle, breaching a family violence order, criminal damage and non-aggravated residential burglary. All of these had increased from the previous year.
Police superintendent Jenny Wilson, who oversees policing in the region, said police had been implementing measures to stamp out crime across Hepburn.
Superintendent Wilson said one of the challenges for police in the previous year had been an increase in cross border offending, with offenders travelling from outside of the area and committing crimes in smaller and quieter towns.
As a result, in recent months there have been new faces working from some of the smaller stations - such as Moorabool Crime Investigation Unit detectives recently working from Daylesford Police Station.
Superintendent Wilson said this had been quite effective, especially as it occurred during a spike in burglaries and theft from vehicles.
Sergeant at Daylesford Police Station, Matthew Flood, has been working on a variety of initiatives to address the crime trends seen in the area.
He said one of the factors which drives many of reported incidents in the town is family violence.
In the year to March 2020 there were 189 incidents of family violence recorded across the Hepburn Shire. This is an increase of 14.5 per cent from the previous year.
Of the affected family members, 142 were women and 47 men, with the majority aged between 25 and 35.
As a result, a dedicated family violence response has been developed by the police working in the area. It is believed the increase in reported incidents means there is an increased confidence to file a report and that police will investigate.
One aspect of this response is holding a perpetrator to account if they breach a family violence intervention order, including incarceration for repeat breaches, while police also work with the Hepburn Family Violence Action Group to support affected community members.
In addition, while temporarily on hold due to COVID-19, support workers from Berry Street had been located at the station to support affected family members and to give confidence to report family violence.
Another crime trend in recent years has been non-family violence related assaults. In 2018, there had been a spike of serious assaults around licensed premises.
In the year to March 2017, there were four common and serious assaults in the town, which jumped to 17 in the year to March 2018.
This spike led police to sit down with licensees and other affected parties such as the council to discuss the issue.
The Daylesford and Hepburn Liquor Forum was rejuvenated and the various parties discussed ideas about ways the issue could be mitigated. The number of non-family violence related assaults is down to nine this year.
Another way Daylesford police have been addressing crime is through being involved in dedicated operations with surrounding stations and specialist detective units in order to detect offences.
With crime trends indicating a need, Superintendent Wilson said police were considering posting specialist staff from a variety of units in the smaller towns on a more permanent basis, so that the specialist police response was not so Ballarat-centric.
Meanwhile, new uniform members have been appointed in locations such as Creswick, so community members can expect to see some new faces around the town.
"We think the physical presence in these towns is really important," Superintendent Wilson said.
Council stands up against family violence
HEPBURN Shire Council has committed to being a leader in the community in regards to family violence.
While the reported offences of family violence in the shire are less than the state average, the council acknowledges that women, including older women, and children living in regional locations, diverse communities including LGBTQIA+ people, and those living with a disability are at greater risk of family violence.
These groups are all represented throughout the Hepburn Shire.
Working with other organisations, the council works actively to prevent family violence and to create a safe community for all residents, regardless of their background, gender or age.
As such, it has solidified its stance and zero tolerance approach for violence against women and children - which it has condemned as "inexcusable, preventable and simply unacceptable" - by adopting the Hepburn Shire Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children Leadership Statement and pledging to work with the community further to address the issue.
Mayor, Cr Licia Kokocinski said that actions against family violence were embedded in Council's daily operations and planning, but that the council also pledged to work with community groups and minority representatives to address the "critical social issue".