Whittlesea police station will have the staffing levels of a “tucked away country outpost” if a forecast reduction in officers goes ahead, according to the Police Association.
The association said there were plans to cut the number of officers working at the Church Street station after the Mernda police station opens at the end of the year.
Association secretary Wayne Gatt said a local police command forecast has allocated one sergeant and four to five officers to the Whittlesea station. The station’s gazetted strength is one senior sergeant, two sergeants, and 12 senior constables or constables.
“It is the commitment of police that you would expect to see in some tucked away country outpost. Whittlesea is a bustling growth corridor, the last place you should reduce police services,” Mr Gatt said.
“Communities like Whittlesea do not want to lose connection with the local police. Putting our members under more pressure to do what they have always done with less is a sure-fire way of ensuring that occurs.”
Resident Celina Mott said there has been a decrease in station staff over the past three years.
Ms Mott said residents were concerned the forecast cut would drive up crime rates further.
“We don’t feel the station is being manned correctly,” she said.
“It is well known that after 6pm there is no police in town. It doesn’t deter people if there are no police.”
Whittlesea mayor Ricky Kirkham has asked Victoria Police and the state government to assure the community the station will be properly staffed. He has called on the community to rally to ensure the station’s future.
The issue has also been raised in Parliament by Northern Victorian Liberal MP Wendy Lovell, who asked Police Minister Lisa Neville to guarantee that there will be no reduction in staff and that the station will remain open.
“The Whittlesea community are outraged by the blatant gutting of police numbers at Whittlesea. The Police Association share their anger because they know – and I know – that the Whittlesea community deserve so much more,” she said.
Whittlesea Inspector Andrew Falconer said staffing at the municipality’s stations would be fluid and there would be no reduction in police numbers.
“The new Mernda station will take over the workload and primary response for five suburbs (South Morang, Mernda, Doreen, Woodstock and Yan Yean area) currently covered by the Whittlesea, Epping and Mill Park police stations,” he said.
“Previously, the Whittlesea police station staff have been called upon to provide a response to the wider police service area.
“With the opening of the Mernda police station, this situation is set to improve and allow the Whittlesea police to focus their activity in the Whittlesea township and its immediate rural surrounds.”
Yan Yean MP Danielle Green said police command had repeatedly assured her the station would not close and would continue to have the same hours.
Residents have organised a community meeting for Wednesday, September 13 at the Whittlesea Community Activity Centre, Laurel Street at 7.30pm.