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SSC Newspaper : September 2011
What the award judges said about the Scene Strathfield Scene 15 crime special www.ourstrathfield.com.au “I’m a stickler for gathering every scrap of information ... I do get a lot of satisfaction in identifying someone for a serious offence” – Detective Sergeant Karl Leis By Peter Lynch The Strathfield Scene, including Strathfield Coun- cil’s communications team, is rightly feeling rather chuffed this month. The paper, launched just over a year ago, was highly commended by the judges in this year’s PANPA Newspaper of the Year awards. It isn’t often a minnow gets recognised by whales. It’s even more rare for a brave experiment – the launching of a newspaper by an independ- ent publisher in partnership with a local authority – to be praised by its peers. Here is what 71 over- seas judges for PANPA said of the Scene: • It’s nearly 20 years since the word hyperlocal was used to describe news and events within a very well-defined area and about a well-defined community. It’s lovely to see a local paper bring its area to life with reporting beyond the usual cheerful stories about school fetes and sports stars. The reporting is tight and stories are well-written; and reporters focus on serious stories which reveal the bugging of councillors’ homes; child- care shortages; and crime. • Strathfield Scene has not yet succeeded in getting the local police shopfront manned 24 hours a day – but it would be a reckless police minister who ignored a local newspaper whose reporters camped out day and night to check on that roster. It’s also clear that the editor really supports the commercial heart of Strathfield – and re- porters stay in good touch with shop owners and coun- cillors. I loved the story of the Homebush shopkeepers needing a sign – but never thinking to ask for one. • The best local papers ensure that there really is some local news: crime, commerce, kids, councils. Strath- field Scene adds environment and education to the mix as well as a useful coverage of local events. • Great idea to use social media to promote Strath- field Scene, particularly if it links to council services such as garbage collection and traffic re- ports – but an even better idea to start promoting the culinary delights of the area to the broader Sydney community. • The Strathf ield Scene should be commended for the quality of its entry, considering the relative youth of this publication. By Mark Chipperfield Downtown Auburn on a sunny afternoon hardly looks like the mean streets of New York, LA or London, but for Detective Sergeant Karl Leis the threat of street crime and armed robbery is never far away – even in the leafiest suburb. Muggings, knife attacks and serious armed robberies mean Leis – a member of Flemington Local Area Command’s small but highly effective anti-robbery squad – can’t let his guard down for a second. “If people choose to commit a serious criminal offence then it’s my job to hold them to account for their actions,” he says, easing his unmarked blue police car on to Susan Street. “ When I have grounds to arrest someone, make no mistake they will receive the full force of the law. I don’t take a backward step in relation to people like that.” This no-nonsense approach has seen Leis named Strathfield Rotary’s police officer of the year – an award that recognises his outstanding record of arrests and convictions over the past 12 months; his current conviction rate is running at more than 90 per cent. “It makes me feel incredibly proud,” he says. “Especially because I was selected by my own police colleagues. It’s something I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life.” A career policeman who joined Flemington LAC in November 2008 after stints at Burwood, Penrith and the Metropolitan Robbery Unit, Leis, 36, says his impressive track record is a result of diligent detective work – and the co-operation of the general public. “I’m a stickler for gathering every scrap of information,” he says. “I suppose I’m a workaholic, but I do get a lot of satisfaction in identifying someone for a serious offence.” Although the five-person robbery squad averages about one arrest every 10-hour shift, it often takes months to hunt down an offender and bring them before the courts. “I’m dealing with several armed robberies that occurred in Strathfield last October. These were street offences committed by four young men who attacked people in the back street by putting a knife to their throat,” Leis said. “Fortunately, I was able to identify those offenders but that involved a lot of hard work . They ’ll be sentenced on September 16 – all of them are 18, not what you would call career criminals.” Like police everywhere Leis makes use of the latest technology, such as surveillance cameras and even social media – criminals often boast about their exploits on Facebook – but says nothing quite replaces old-fashioned police methods. “It only takes a foot in the door to set you off in the right direction. It’s matter of using your skills as an investigator to put those facts before the courts.” The fact that Flemington LAC, which covers Auburn, Lidcombe, Greenacre, Homebush, Newington, Belfield, Berala and Strathfield, has cracked down hard on street crime and armed robberies in the past few years has persuaded some offenders to choose softer targets elsewhere. “In the last 12 months we’ve done really well in following up crime reports promptly – and staying on top of things,” he says. Although Leis is unforgiving towards career criminals and recidivists, he says some of the younger offenders are simply making a tragic mistake. Not everyone deserves a custodial sentence but even naive criminals must learn from their mistakes. “They want to impress their mates or stand out from the crowd. But later on they have to face the consequences of their actions.” Leis, a father of four (his wife Rachael is a former detective), plays down the inherent risks of arresting dangerous armed thugs, which he says just comes with the territory. “ You need to be confident about yourself and confident about your colleagues. And expect the unexpected.” Like most police officers in NSW, Leis carries a sidearm at all times but would rather rely on his quick wits and negotiation skills: “It’s something to be used as a last resort. I hope that I never have to shoot someone.” One of the few times this gently spoken detective has had to brandish his pistol was to stop three men in balaclavas – and armed with machetes – robbing a TAB in Burwood. “I drew my firearm and told them to stop but they took off up the road. I gave chase on foot while my colleague called for backup. “After a couple of blocks one of them jumped into a stolen ute, but I was able to pull him out of the vehicle, put him on floor and handcuff him. Luckily things went quite smoothly. “ True to form, Leis eventually tracked down the man’s two accomplices after months of diligent police work. They were subsequently charged and convicted. “Everyone has to take responsibility for their own actions,” he says. “If you do the crime then be prepared to serve the time.” On patrol with our top cop “If people choose to commit a serious criminal offence then it’s my job to hold them to account for their actions.” W hyourbo W lsclubhashadtocloseafter50glor i ousyearsCamera,bugs f ounda t homeso f counc i llorsSecur it ychecksorderedonmoreaddresses Strathfield m u m sand dads are beingforcedtotaketheir childrento childcare centresin other suburbs such asBurwood and H aberfield in a bid tosave m oney on risingfees. Th e parental exodusisleavingStrathfield with an oversupply of vacancies, with a new centre openingsoon. Pictured above Dean andBrayden M cPherson. R eadtheStrathfield Sceneinvestigationonpages8and 9. kids co mm utetop l ay funrunB en r oberts urges: sign up forthe C ooks r iver fu n r un page 11 propertyM akeover or m ove house? W e tellyou w hich isbest page 14 Wi nt i Ckets ans w erasi m ple question and see D isney on iceforfree BaCk page seepage3 exclusive By natalie o’Brien S olicehavelaunchedan investigation into the discoveryof a hidden camera andlisteningdeviceswhichhad been secretly installed in thehomes of two Strathfieldcouncillors. Th ehighly-specialised bugging equipmentwasreportedlyfound inthe South Strathfield homeof CouncillorPaulBarronand anothercouncillor,whohasasked notto beidentified. Th eallegationsthatsomeonehas beenspyingonthetwocouncillors haveraisedconcernsaboutjustwhat informationwasbeingsought–and bywhom. Onesourcetold theStrathfield Scene the devices were “fairly sophisticated”,buttheywerenot similartothoseusedbypoliceor othergovernmentorganisations. Th ediscoveryofthecovert devicesfollowsapreviousincident inwhichCrBarronhadalsofound a“bug”whichwastrackinghis activitiesonhishomecomputer.It is believed this incidenthappened earlierthisyear. Th efreshclaimsofsurveillance, thistimeattwohomes,arebelieved tofollowabreakandenteratCr Ba rro n’s ho me. InFebruarythisyear,CrBarron toldpolicethathishomewas brokenintoandanintruderhad rifled through his council papers. CrBarronhadreportedly assumedthatitwaspossiblya politicallymotivated break-in becausevaluableitems such as his mobile,laptopandcoinswerein fullviewoftheintruderbuthadnot been touched. AtthetimeCrBarrontoldthe mediahehadcomehomeandfound thefrontdoortohishomesmashed open.Inside,hefoundthatsome ofthedrawersinhisbedroomhad beenopenedandgonethrough– butonlytheonescontainingcouncil relateddocumentation. Hesaid itwasverystrangethat onlyhis council documentation had been tampered with, leading himtotheconclusionthatitwas politically motivated. Hesaid that investigating policetoldhimwhoeverwas responsible had worngloves and left nofingerprints. Continued onpage9 www . o ur st r athfield.co m .au•juLy2010 F Ree W hereyourvo i ce m atters