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SSC Newspaper : August 2011
Strathfield Scene 9 www.ourstrathfield.com.au the big issue or inter vene in a crime without backup for safety reasons. The bigger question is the superintendent’s avowed belief that perception, not criminal activity, is the real problem. “I question the perception of crime,” he says, telling the Scene his own examination of the statistics for April, May and June showed little or no crime in Strathfield took place in the CBD, where the shopfront is located. There were seven assaults at the railway station, 22 assaults in the rest of Strathfield, three robberies in the CBD and 11 across the municipality. “Our crime is decreasing,” he insists. “It is because of our proactive teams.” He concedes, however, that the railway station and the constant movement of He plans to forward a page from last month’s Scene, where businesses and a resident cited times they had to deal with crime themselves, to Police Minister Michael Gallacher. Casuscelli said in a letter to the Scene: “I have given one of my staff the task of preparing a statistical analysis of crime in the Strathfield electorate to support my position. “It will be another week or so before we finish our analysis and, with real data in hand, I will be pushing for an increased police presence in Strathfield.” But Rogerson’s views cannot be dismissed lightly. It is true the shopfront does build expectations that it was never intended to meet. It is more a community liaison point. It has no cells or holding area. And the officers inside are not allowed to go on patrol By Peter Lynch S uperintendant Philip Rogerson is one of NSW’s most experienced police officers. He has served the state as a detective and in uniform for 32 years. He has worked some of the meanest streets in Australia, including Kings Cross, inspiration for the hit TV series Underbelly. Today, he is commander of Flemington LAC. From his headquarters in Auburn, he runs an operation that includes 220 men and women, the highway patrol, the commuter crime unit and a beat that comprises more than 124 cultural groups. It also includes the controversial Strathfield Plaza shopfront, a tiny ink spot on his substantial area of responsibility and something that is clearly causing some pain for this decorated officer. Local MP Charles Casuscelli, Strathfield businesses and the Scene have all been demanding an increased police presence in the municipality. They maintain that a permanent police station in the CBD is imperative because Strathfield has the state’s third-busiest railway station and a growing crime problem. Rogerson, who has to balance the manpower needs of his stations, patrol cars, courts and any emergency incidents, is yet to be convinced. The jury, as they say, is still out. In a long interview with the Scene this week, he referred to internal police research that, he insists, shows crime is falling. His LAC, he says, is one of the best performing in the state. He attributes this success to a policy of intervention – catching criminals rather than using scarce manpower or deterrents. Rogerson’s advice to Strathfield residents if they get into trouble: dial 000. A patrol car is never more than five minutes away, he says. As for the shopfront, opened after a furore when Strathfield’s police station was closed because the rent was too high, the superintendent maintains everyone has its purpose wrong. “It is a shopfront, not a police station,” he insists. “It’s only about customer service.” And he warns that if the shop continued to be a focus of friction, it could be shut down. “There is one way we can solve the problem – we can close it.” The superintendent’s views appear to put him at odds with the state member for Strathfield and businesses in the area. They certainly seem a blow to those who believe the shopfront should be permanently manned. Casuscelli has asked residents to contact him with their crime horror stories and has spoken to the regional commander, Assistant Commissioner Frank Minnelli. so many people make the municipality vulnerable. Officers from the commuter crime unit often patrol the platform to deal with rail offences. Rogerson says he is aware of the concerns of residents and businesses but can offer no guarantees about manning the shopfront. In the event of sickness or an emergency, Strathfield would have to go without. “I have no problem if people want to make it [the shopfront] a police station. But every officer comes off my roster. If you want cars on the road, then this has to be a priority.” Rogerson says he will analyse the calls to the shopfront to establish how it was being used. But he says he suspects he will find few residents visited while it was manned. Casuscelli says he would happily trade the shopfront for a visible and permanent police presence on the streets. Where the two men clearly do not agree is on the value of patrol cars. “The type of policing we want in Strathfield is not delivered by police in police cars,” the MP says. “Cars are great because they give you mobility and allow you to deal with issues emerging. But there is no presence in and around Strathfield. “So if you are thinking of putting a police station there and having officers there and taking policemen off the beat, I’d rather have a police station. “If you said to me, ‘Here is a performance standard, we will actually devote these man- hours every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and around Strathfield we will have two police officers that are seen five or six times a day walking around doing their stuff and we have an enhanced Neighbourhood Watch scheme’, I would actually consider it in preference to having two police officers in a shopfront. “My view is that having police on the street talking to people is worth more than police inside typing up reports.” Casuscelli is determined to break what appears an impasse. He says Minnelli presented him with worrying Strathfield crime hotspots that he would make public. “Strathfield is not crime-free at all – in some categories we are at the top and in others our trends are worrying. “ You can show me all the statistics in the world, but he has yet to convince me that reporting trends are not being affected by the fact that some people have probably given up reporting crime because of the inaction by the police. “ They do not feel comfortable that reporting something produces any benefit given their investment in time and expense in making a report.” Stretching the thin blue line to Strathfield The continuing furore about the Strathfield police shopfront obscures a more serious debate that pits highly mobile police units against “bobbies on the beat”. “I have no problem if people want to make it [the shopfront] a police station. But every officer comes off my roster.” Call 000: Superintendant Philip Rogerson says police cars can respond to emergency calls within minutes