It’s been a big year with the Commissioner’s re-engineering process resulting in the merger of Barwon and New England LACs; a new management model and my appointment as commander to the New England Police District.
As is the nature of our work, our police have been witness to many traumatic events but also worked hard to effect arrests and deliver results which benefit the whole community.
I am pleased to say that our crime statistics show downward trends in almost all property and violence crime and, whilst this is of no consolation for those of you who were victims of crime, it sends a clear message that the strategies we have put in place and the staff we have on the ground are doing the work and getting results.
Reducing crime and fear of crime is paramount as these issues affect everything from insurance premiums, housing costs, cost of living and the general feeling of safety.
It’s no secret that that there is a strong correlation between drugs and other offences, and there can be no tolerance for those who supply illicit or prescription drugs to our children or other persons in our community.
It was this mindset that saw Strike Force Clunes dismantle a drug syndicate operating out of drug houses in Inverell and Tingha in early April.
Resources across the district have continued to target the supply of illicit drugs with 50 search warrants executed, including one in March where firearms, ammunition and in excess of 100 kilograms of cannabis was seized from a Stannifer property.
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During November, local police, together with State Crime Command, seized more than $8 million worth of cannabis plants as part of a week-long cannabis eradication program.
The focused commitment of our staff has by no means eased off and as the year comes to a close so too has Strike Force Janian.
The lengthy investigation into the supply of illicit drugs into Armidale has resulted in the arrest of five offenders and four search warrants locally, and spawned further arrests in Newcastle, Coffs Harbour and Lismore.
Community support has been pivotal to the success of this district during 2018 and no better example was the arrest of two armed offenders at Mungindi in May. Members of our community, along with resources from New South Wales and Queensland Police Forces, worked together to achieve their arrest over a three-day operation.
And in October, members of the community assisted police to located two escapees who fled from Glen Innes to Armidale in a stolen vehicle.
Staffing is always a challenge but, fortunately for us all, the district has only one vacancy and more staff on the way with the announcement of new positions being made for a Region Enforcement Squad, Dog Unit and dedicated officers to target elder abuse and offenders on the Child Protection Register. In addition, this month we welcomed six probationary constables (stationed at Armidale, Inverell, Glen Innes and Moree).
Despite the majority of work being focused on town centres, our landowners have not been forgotten. 2018 has been a pivotal year for rural communities, with newly staffed Rural Crime Prevention Teams, led by Detective Sergeant Bennet Nolan, stationed at Moree and Inverell.
All of these officers will continue to work throughout this festive season with the aim of protecting you and your family.
To help them in this endeavour, I ask all residents to be safe over this holiday season; employ the best crime prevention strategies, drive safely and drink responsibly. Please contact police at the first sign of anti-social or suspicious behaviour.
For those of you lucky enough to be enjoying holidays at this time of year, enjoy your break, take care of one another, and come back to us safe and ready for a wonderful new year.
The New England Police District and I, along with our families, want to extend our deepest thanks and best wishes to you and your families during this season of joy and celebration.