New Police Minister dogged by ‘backyard’ crime

Bellarine MP Lisa Neville at the announcement of the new Bellarine Community Safety website 154533_01


NEW State Police Minister Lisa Neville is already facing pressure and Opposition attacks after a number of local crimes within days of her new appointment.
The Bellarine MP took on the Police portfolio after the Victorian Government’s latest cabinet reshuffle on 23 May.
Early the next day, a spate of burglaries occurred in The Terrace, renewing calls for CCTV and greater police presence in the Bellarine.
Ocean Grove Pizza and Pasta, Florence and Threads, Cenzo and Co, Uncle Jack’s and Oceans Secret all had their front windows smashed in.
Despite causing hundreds of dollars in damage, the thieves only got away with small amounts of cash and a few items, according to staff.
Police obtained CCTV footage of three people in a green Ford on the morning of the crime, who they wish to speak to.
Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay said Ms Neville’s lack of support for CCTV in the Bellarine made her “a disappointing choice”.
According to a survey sent to thousands of Bellarine residents last month, Mr Ramsay said, 97 per cent were concerned about rising crime rates.
“Communities in Lisa Neville’s own backyard are living in fear and she still refuses to support CCTV funding,” he said.
“Hopefully now as the Minister for Police she will begin to notice what is happening in her own neighbourhood and take action to make the Bellarine a safer place to live.”
Ms Neville was in Drysdale on 20 May prior to the reshuffle, to promote the $13,000 Bellarine Community Safety website.
She said the website would be a “one-stop shop” for crime prevention information for residents.
It will be funded from a $30,000 grant for Bellarine Community Safety Group which Ms Neville established last year.
During the announcement Ms Neville responded to criticism about CCTV funding, saying the State Government’s Public Safety Infrastructure funding bids had been highly competitive.
She said projects had been chosen based on their merit, with the help of police command.
Both the Drysdale Neighbourhood Watch and the Ocean Grove Community Association submitted applications through Geelong Council.
“The applications made by the council for CCTV cameras for Drysdale and Ocean Grove were not up to standard,“ Ms Neville said.
“In this case they were let down.”
Ms Neville said the government had funded 15 extra police for Geelong and the Bellarine and extended hours at local police stations.
“I think it’s ironic the Opposition has anything to say given they let three police stations close,” she said.
Bellarine Officer in Charge, Senior Sergeant Shane Madigan, said crime in the Bellarine was much lower than the state average, despite recent burglaries.
Sen Sgt Madigan said social media pages, while providing great “eyes on the ground”, could exaggerate perceptions of local crime.
“The stats haven’t increased – they’ve actually decreased,” he said.
“But the community down here doesn’t accept crime and we love that they are so passionate about preventing it.”
On the morning of Ms Neville’s announcement, 79-year-old Clifton Springs resident Graham Stevenson was flown to The Alfred hospital with severe burns after a neighbourhood dispute.
He later died of his injuries.
His neighbour Stewart McKnight faced Geelong Magistrates’ Court on 23 May, charged with arson and reckless conduct endangering life.
He did not apply for bail and was remanded in custody.
He will face court again in September, where there is a strong possibility the charges will be upgraded to murder.
Anyone with information on the these incidents can call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.