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Consideration and Noting - Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management Annual Report 2016-17

[3.05 p.m.]

Ms ARMITAGE (Launceston) - Mr President, once again the annual report for the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Management paints an optimistic picture of life in Tasmania. I thank the member for Windermere for once again putting it on our agenda so that we could discuss it. It found 79 per cent of Tasmanian residents are generally satisfied with policing services. Home burglaries decreased and public order incidents also fell. Public place assaults decreased. Tasmania has the lowest crime rates in the country. The overall crime rate over the past 17 years has decreased significantly from 64 000 per year to around 25 000. All this is great news.

At the other end of the scale, statistics from the police corporate performance report figures show that Launceston is Tasmania's crime capital, and by a big margin. The Launceston area had an annual crime rate of 1004 offences per 10 000 residents and its serious crime rate was double that of Hobart. This crime rate seems to correlate with the northern district having the lowest number of police officers per 1000 people. I am pleased to see that police have been taken out of the courts. As of the first week in July, six new correctional officers will take over the duties of Tasmania Police in the Launceston Supreme Court.

The Government's commitment to add 15 additional police officers to Launceston has been very well received by those of us in the north, as was the appointment of the second detective inspector last year. Offences against the person rose by 4.1 per cent, against property by 11 per cent, and fraud and similar offences by 10 per cent. The clearance rate for total offences reduced slightly from 48 per cent in 2015-16 to 47 per cent in 2016-17. Can the Leader tell me how the department's implementation of the recommendations from the independent review of the emergency management arrangements in Tasmania is going? I think 22 recommendations were in place.

Mrs Hiscutt - We will need to take that question on notice.

Ms ARMITAGE - The police focus on public safety achieved positive results through high‑visibility strategies and enhanced public order capabilities, with a focus on alcohol and drug‑related public order issues. I agree with the member for McIntyre that marked police cars are very important. In Launceston they will often park in the mall or at the end of the mall. Whether the police officers are there or not, seeing the vehicle makes you think they might be nearby. It gives some of the residents a feeling of safety and potential perpetrators might think twice when they see the vehicle.

Mrs Hiscutt - Agreed, wholeheartedly.

Ms ARMITAGE - Tasmanians felt 2 per cent safer walking locally at night compared to the previous year. Now, 2 per cent is not a great deal, but it is an improvement. I must admit in Launceston I am probably not inclined -

Ms Forrest - Who did they survey? They did not ask me.

Ms ARMITAGE - No. It depends on who is surveyed. I would not walk too far in Launceston of an evening. Even if I am going to a restaurant that might be only half a kilometre away, I tend to drive. You do not know who is going to be on the streets on your way back. If they had asked me, I would say after dark is not the time you would want to be walking on your own on the streets.

It was also sad to read that almost half the fires that occurred during the year were deliberately lit - I think it was 46 per cent. I do not know the answer to this, but it is a sorry situation, as is the number of people who are charged with not wearing a seatbelt, which came in at 2753. I find it really hard to understand that anyone would choose to forego this more often than not lifesaving device.

I also notice in the report that the Southern District showed a marked decrease in the number of home burglaries, due in part to Operation Saturate.

Leader, does Tasmania Police have any plans for a similar operation in the north and the north-west? I could not find any information in the report on that.

We all know that being an emergency service worker is a highly stressful job, so it was very heartening to see that the wellness program has now shifted its focus to the mental health and wellbeing of the workers. All in all, I believe our police officers do a magnificent job, to the best of their ability. I support the report.

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