Muggings and robberies drop as police ordered from desksBy Gemma Jones
August 18, 2008 12:00am
A DRAMATIC change in the approach to crime-fighting in central Sydney has slashed muggings in half and reduced the incidence of other serious crimes.
Police have been ordered out from behind their desks and less important tasks have been shelved to get as many as 30 more officers into the CBD to target criminals.
Detective Inspector Jenny Hayes said the fundamental shift, which began three months ago, was already reaping dramatic rewards.
Muggings have fallen from a monthly average of 38 to 19 in July, and robberies have dropped by as many as 100 a month.
In July last year, there were 229 thefts from vehicles in the city. Last month, there were 126.
"Policing operations have changed in the city. It's very different from three months ago in that a lot of police are on the street," Insp Hayes said.
"It's a complete change: that is, flood the city with visible police and target offenders or suspects.
"We have different priorities. We redeploy police now, we use more drug dogs to show a lot of high visibility, we take police from less important tasks."
Instead of being ordered into the street in a show of force, officers - many of them plainclothes detectives - are targeting specific crimes.
Police released further figures on Friday showing an almost 400 per cent increase in drug searches compared with the corresponding three months last year.
Officers have doubled the number of regular searches, and "move-on" orders to potential troublemakers have increased by 23 per cent.
Break, enter and steal offences have plummeted by more than a third compared with this time last year.
Officers are working with licensed premises to fight alcohol-related crime, but it is too early to tell if voluntary lockdowns and the introduction of plastic glasses are reducing assaults.
Insp Hayes hoped there would be a marked reduction in assaults during the next six months.
"We're trying different sorts of policing strategies; you really want to see a difference," she said.
Sydney Chamber of Commerce executive director Patricia Forsythe said the reduction in crime was being noticed by business owners on the notorious George St cinema strip.
"There were previously a few hot spots. There was a period when we were seeing regular high-profile crimes along that George St area," she said.
Ms Forsythe said the benefits of the police change were evident.
"It seems to be having some positive effect," she said.
"Police on the beat and street lighting are two of the most simple, but most effective, strategies you can employ."
Well, who would have thunk it.
I'm sure Inspector Hayes will shortly be moved on to other things - punishment for being too effective.