Dogs may join drug squad on the beat in Tamworth

POLICE drug and dog units could be established in Tamworth to help the city fight its law and order issues.

Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson alluded to the new units yesterday, saying the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, had said he would “seriously look at” setting up a dog squad and drug unit in Tamworth during a meeting between the two last week.

Mr Anderson said the meeting was to ensure Mr Smith was “under no illusions as to what our community is feeling at the moment, and the challenges they’re going through in relation to crime”.

It has also been disclosed that the $50,000 promised to Tamworth to tackle its growing crime and anti-social behaviour problem won’t be simply handed over – it will have to apply for the funds.

The Tamworth Crime Prevention Working Group met yesterday afternoon to consider the grant application for the funds, to be spent on an initiative to help address escalating crime rates.

It is understood the money could be used to operate a night-time bus service to take youths off the streets and back home, and could be run on a long-term basis by a community organisation such as Joblink Plus.

The money was announced by Attorney-General Greg Smith at Tamworth’s second law-and-order public meeting at the end of August.

But it had since been revealed the money would only become available if Tamworth Regional Council’s grant application was successful.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray said he didn’t have an issue with the grant application process and, all going well, the money may even arrive as early as Monday.

“There will be some basic conditions (on the grant), but we don’t see there are any deal-breakers in any of those conditions,” Cr Murray said.

“If we present that application to the Attorney-General in the way that he’s expecting it to come – which we’re very confident we will do within the next week – we’re confident that money will be released shortly.”

Cr Murray said if the Crime Prevention Working Group chose to use the funds for a bus 

service, it would be a great outcome for the community.

“Because that’s one good opportunity to get these people out of the city of an evening and off the streets and back into their homes,” he said.

Cr Murray and Mr Anderson yesterday gave an update about a meeting held with Mr Smith in Sydney last Thursday morning, at which the community’s growing concerns about the city’s crime problem, especially young offenders, were brought up.

Cr Murray said the community had a perception young offenders were getting off lightly in the court system.

“While we need to respect the positions of the magistrates – who operate outside politics – they are the concerns of our community that I’ve put to (Mr Smith),” he said. “There seems to be, repeatedly, people coming before the courts who are already on bail and already under some sort of sentence; the community is suggesting to me they’re being turned around and put back on the streets.”

On the issue of a drug unit and dog squad for the city, Mr Anderson said they were both needed and wanted.

“We believe that our growing population, and the demands that our community need and want, warrants that. We’re going to continue to push to make sure we get those units here,” Mr Anderson said. 

He said recent changes to the Bail Offenders Act gave police powers to enforce bail conditions imposed by a court, such as curfews, reporting to police or adult-supervision requirements, and came about as a direct result of concerns raised by Tamworth residents at its two law-and-order and crime public meetings and community petition.

But he said he was greatly concerned when he heard about attacks on the vulnerable members of the community, such as the elderly living by themselves.

He said the community had an expectation young offenders should be dealt with appropriately in the court system, “rather than just the softly-softly, slap-on-the-wrist stuff”.

Tamworth has received 22 new police officers – 11 of whom have been given permanent positions – in the past year, and the Tamworth Action Group was re-established several months ago. 

The aim is to make TAG a permanent fixture in the city.

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