By Ann Newling and Jacqueline Van Aanholt
ORGANISERS want a full house at a second crime forum in Tamworth tonight to push issues that they say will better fight crime and keep the city safer.
And while observers believe the Attorney-General, Greg Smith, will come under some intense fire with questions about bail laws, court procedures and a perceived “soft” touch on juvenile crime, they’re hoping that the more debate there is, the better the results that could flow.
Nationals Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson says it is up to the community to tell organisers just what they want their political leaders to do. The meeting will be held at the Tamworth Regional Entertainment and Conference Centre and follows a first one called in December last year in the wake of widespread crime and law and order issues. The meeting declared a 10-point plan to go to the state government – backed by 17,000 signatures from residents.
Tonight’s meeting is likely to see calls for explanations about what hasn’t been done – and what has been achieved in the wake of that public protest.
Mr Anderson said yesterday the Oxley Local Area Command now boasted 150 police, against last year’s 134 – but the police association had already explained that the top-up was via probationary police, not experienced on-ground officers to boost detective, licensing, domestic violence, intelligence and tactical response numbers.
Mr Anderson deflected suggestions that Tamworth residents wanted to see moves and action that has followed the king-hit death of teenager Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross in early July where the government is now considering appeals for a range of measures like earlier closing times for licensed premises, restrictions on alco pops and shots, plastic glasses, lockouts and other alcohol serving times.
“Kings Cross is not Tamworth, and Tamworth is not Kings Cross” and he believed local pubs and clubs were doing a good job Mr Anderson said.
“This is a safe city that sometimes has few problems except when drunken idiots set out to cause mayhem. That’s the sort of behavior we don’t need or want or accept. But we need to take some responsibility for our own actions in those cases.”
Mr Anderson said crime figures had dropped since December, particularly in relation to break and enters and stealing, such as car thefts after home break-ins. At this evening’s meeting, the agenda has been set by the organiser Tamworth Regional Council, which has driven the campaign for government support and action. It is understood mayor Col Murray will address the meeting first, to explain the role and responsibilities local government and council has under the Local Government Act.
Councillor Ray Tait, who is the chairman of the council’s crime prevention committee, will talk about initiatives and outcomes implemented this year that have specifically targeted graffiti and anti-social behaviour.
Chair of the Tamworth and District Liquor Accord Roger Rumble, Oxley Local Area Commander Clint Pheeney, crime manager Phil O’Reilly and Tamworth Police Association branch chair Barry McMahon will also speak.
Mr Anderson and special guest, Attorney-General Greg Smith, will be the last to speak and have been allocated between five and 10 minutes each.
Doors open at 5.30pm for a 6pm start.