WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson: his most important law and order challenges

WA Commissioner of Police Chris Dawson. Photo ABC.
WA Commissioner of Police Chris Dawson. Photo ABC.

MORE: Chris Dawson appointed WA’s new Commissioner of Police

WA has a new Police Commissioner and while Chris Dawson doesn’t take command of the State’s officers until August 16, there are already plenty of challenges facing our new top cop.

Here’s a list of the top issues facing police in your area.

Joondalup and Wanneroo

1. Domestic violence: Domestic violence across the northern suburbs is an ongoing concern for police. Just recently, officers charged three men over three separate domestic violence incidents in Merriwa and Yanchep. About four years ago, officers set up a local family violence unit to better understand repeat offenders and at-risk families. As a result, police have been receiving more reports of domestic violence as victims become more comfortable reporting to police.

2. Motorcycles: The number of serious motorcycle crashes and deaths in the district was among the worst in WA in the past year. The increase in fatalities and serious injuries prompted former Road Safety Commissioner Kim Papalia to criticise other motorists for showing a lack of awareness around motorcyclists on local roads. But he also made it clear motorcyclists often put their own lives at risk through irresponsible riding.

3. Vehicle break-ins: Talk to any local police officer in Joondalup or Wanneroo and they will complain about the number of vehicle break-ins resulting from unlocked doors. Meanwhile, residents say it’s wrong of officers to blame the victim for the crime. But it seems police are on a constant loop of reminding residents to lock their car doors and secure their valuables. It remains one of the district’s biggest local policing issues on a yearly basis.

Perth CBD and the Western Suburbs

1. Drug use: While meth use remains high, further services are badly needed. A public hearing in May, held as part of the Commonwealth Parliament inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, found while meth use was high, other substances and the reason for their use could not be dismissed. WA Primary Health Alliance chief executive Learne Durrington spoke of the broader problem of substance abuse being linked to crime, and the combination of factors that lead to higher rates of drug abuse. In May, WA Attorney General John Quigley said a meth action plan would focus on early prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. At the ground level, police say substance abusers are often on the lookout for easy money to feed their habit. That can mean breaking into homes or nabbing purses from handbags.

2. Credit card fraud: The use of “tap and go” debit cards represents a constant problem for police (and card owners). Perth police sergeant John Anagnostakis said there had been an increase in reports of handbags and wallets being swiped from nightspots, including restaurants and clubs. People also continue not to heed warnings about leaving possessions in cars.

3. Anti-social behaviour and crime: Mosman Park residents have sought answers to long-standing issues with crime and anti-social behaviour in the affluent suburb. Meetings between the Mosman Park council, police and the Housing Authority took place earlier this year after concerns that residents in public housing on Wellington Street were behind a spate of petty crime. Some residents were moved on and charged, with an increased police presence appearing to make a difference. While some believe issues tied to public housing have quietened down, there are concerns crime remains because of the suburb’s two train stations, which offer criminals a chance to enter and exit the area undetected and with relative ease.

Eastern suburbs and the Hills

1. Domestic violence: Domestic violence has been a concern to police in the expanding housing areas in and around Ellenbrook. It’s also a widely reported issue in Midland and the Perth Hills.

2. Break-ins: Shops and small businesses in Kalamunda and Midland have been hit with break-ins – some targeted several times. It’s a bitter pill especially when times have been so tough for small business. In the Hills, break and enter thieves continue to target houses. Big meat packs have become a common target for thieves looking for goods to offer drug dealers in exchange for ice. Fuel drive offs and theft from bottle shops remains an issue.

3. Youth: In Ellenbrook, youth crime and social problems have been historically blamed on a “lack of things to do in Ellenbrook”. Despite long standing recognition and attempts by authorities to offer more in the area, problems remain.

Cannington

1. Home break-ins and burglaries: With at least six attempts reported in the past month in East Cannington alone, frustrated residents called a meeting with local police.

2. Loitering: Has locals worried that loitering leads to burglaries of homes and cars.

Southern suburbs

1. Burglaries: Theft from homes and cars continue to be a key policing issue for people living in the southern suburbs, with police invited to talk to East Cannington residents about their concerns.

2. Assaults: Particularly drug-fuelled assaults, with Bicton, Belmont, Fremantle and Victoria Park areas among the top five for alcohol-fuelled serious assaults according to a McCusker Centre study. The City of Melville last month signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with WA Police regarding Neighbourhood Watch and personal safety has also been a noted issue in Belmont.

3. Protection of public officers: Calls for stab-proof vests has gone beyond only looking after police officers. There were 3043 ‘code blacks’ called at Fiona Stanley Hospital last year, making hospital staff safety also a priority.

Rockingham

1. Domestic violence/sex offences: Reports of domestic violence continue to rise in Rockingham. Family disputes often play out in court and there is significant demand at the local women’s refuge. There has been a spate of sex attacks and encounters with sex pests, who often prey on women walking alone. While the common theme is women as victims, there has been a wide range in the ages of both perpetrators and victims.

2. Youth issues: Locals have concerns about unsupervised young people congregating at shopping centres, with reports of groups harassing shoppers and stealing from shops and patrons.

3. Unlicensed driving: Rockingham’s Magistrates Court regularly deals with people appearing on driving offences. Driving without a license and stealing motor vehicles are common offences.

Mandurah

1. Methylamphetamine use: WA may have recently dropped to No.2 when comparing meth use statistics but Mandurah remains a hotspot for mehylamphetamine use and related crime. Criminals often give meth use as an excuse for their activity, up to and including murder. Mandurah drug rehabilitation service workers say they deal with more meth use clients than those with alcohol and cannabis concerns.

2. Domestic violence: Just as it does in Perth’s north, reports of domestic violence continue to increase in Mandurah. Pat Thomas women’s refuge was consistently full, with women and children sadly sometimes turned away. Fortunately more women’s refuges have opened locally to cater for increased demand.

3. Burglaries and antisocial behaviour: Burglaries and antisocial behaviour has become an issue in particular “hotspot” suburbs across the Peel district. Greenfields residents have started a Facebook page to track incidents in their area as the suburb has been a target for burglaries and vandals in recent months. Lakelands has also recorded higher burglary figures.