By Jonty Ralphsmith
Police presence is the common denominator when people are asked about how the issue of criminality on Lonsdale and Langhorne Streets could be addressed
Employees at bakery Kiki Steak and Cheese Pie say police used to come to get coffees and lunch there, thus deterring would-be criminals. Now, they’re unsighted according to employees and businesses.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a police officer walk the streets of Dandenong,” Cr Bob Milkovic and First National realtor said at a council meeting on Tuesday 14 June.
“Can we send some patrol officers to actually walk the streets because I haven’t seen any and I am in Dandenong every single day, day in day out and I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a police officer apart from stopping someone and issuing a speeding fine.”
“We need to address this and address it fairly quickly before Dandenong starts going back to where it was five years ago will go back to where it was five years ago which was dead.”
The councillor asked if there was a plan regarding safety and homelessness issues which he said was a lingering issue.
Chief executive John Bennie could not comment on the apparent police absence, but reiterated that there was a strategic approach in mind but acknowledged the issue.
“We do acknowledge there are problems in our activity centres that need to be dealt with and dealt with as a matter of urgency,” he said.
Mr Bennie said there had been discussion between relevant agencies and that he and the mayor were hoping to meet with state member Gabrielle Williams and gain her support to add weight to their pleas.
Mr Hall was initially dissatisfied by the police response to last Friday’s attack after failing, but a visit from an officer last Wednesday – five days later – has him grateful. Police have taken responsibility, he said, and intend to put measures in place to address the issue.
Others were more scathing.
“When we reported it, they said police would be in contact with you – that was last Friday and we’ve never heard from them,” Biggin & Scott’s Colin Kitney said.
“We sent them a video of the crime, and never heard from them. You’ve got plenty to write about in Dandenong now.
“The police won’t want to speak to me because I’m a real bad advocate for them – I used to respect them so much and now they show no respect to us whatsoever.”
Greater Dandenong’s crime rate per capita is the lowest it has been in a decade according to the latest official statistics, dropping 18.7 per cent from April 2021-March 2022, exceeding the state-wide decrease of 12 per cent.
However, it is more recently that businesses have observed an increase in criminal behaviour.
Greater Dandenong Local Area Commander, Acting Inspector Ivan Petrunic said people have every reason to feel safe.
“I want to assure the community that every single member of Victoria Police will continue to work tirelessly to keep the crime rates as low as possible. We will be conducting proactive, intelligence based patrols in neighbourhoods, across shopping precincts and public transport hubs; if you choose to threaten, endanger or victimise members of our community, we will arrest you and hold you to account,” he said.
A state government spokesperson said that 225 of the 3135 new police officers have been allocated to the Dandenong Division, including 33 family violence specialists and highlighted the 25 projects that have been supported to prevent crime in the municipality since 2015.
Investigations remain ongoing into the attack on 10 June and police urge anyone with information relating to the incident to lodge a confidential report at crimestoppersvic.come.au.