Central Hunter Local Command

I wish to give a massive shout out to the wonderful men and women in blue, who are often described as the blue line between sensible, safe societies and the madness and chaos that could overtake our societies if not for their service. The men and women who serve at Cessnock Police Station and those of the Central Hunter Local Area Command have a reputation for a high arrest rate. Based on quarterly measurements, they repeatedly come within the top three areas for arrest rates in the State. Their arrest rate is about one arrest per officer in any given quarter, and this amazing statistic is met quarter after quarter after quarter. As a comparison, I refer to areas that employ far more officers—for example, at Newcastle, which has approximately 300 officers who make about 80 arrests a quarter, the rate is about one arrest per four or five officers.

The men and women in blue in the electorate of Cessnock work as hard as any other police officer in the State. I also recognise the men and women in blue at Coffs Harbour, who also are stars of the statistics when it comes to the number of arrests per officer. As I said, the men and women in blue of the Central Hunter Local Area Command have been up there every quarter for the five years that these statistics have been measured. Given those statistics, I raise with the Minister for Justice and Police, Troy Grant, the need for more police officers in the local area command. The Hunter is one of the fastest growing regions in the State outside of Sydney, and this population growth is happening not at Newcastle but in part at Lake Macquarie and prominently in the Central Hunter.

This morning a White Ribbon morning tea was held at Parliament House. One of the sadder parts of representing the electorate of Cessnock is that our area has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the State. As members of Parliament, we know from talking to local police officers that the attendance of police at a domestic violence incident may take a minimum of four hours and up to an entire shift. The officers have to write and lodge reports and may have to make arrests. At any given time, Cessnock has only four police officers in two vehicles on the beat. This means that a domestic violence incident effectively takes half the duty police officers off the streets of Cessnock and leaves only one car patrolling the beat.

Domestic violence is a scourge of the community that I represent and more needs to be done to address this issue. I take off my hat to the men and women in blue who deal commendably with these matters under very difficult circumstances. I am concerned that these incidents result in officers frequently being off the beat for long periods of time. With the new jail coming to Cessnock and the additional 1,000 convicted criminals who will be housed in this jail, I also appeal to the Minister to consider illegal offences that seem to occur around corrections facilities. These illegal offences include visitors trying to take banned items into the jail or coming to the community with drugs and other illegal substances. Other matters involve prisoners who participate in illegal activities, such as assaults and rapes.

There are also ongoing investigations where prisoners on remand or serving a sentence for a particular crime need to be further interviewed and investigated by police under section 25. By and large, all those matters are dealt with by local police. That means in my electorate one of our police vehicles could be attending a domestic violence situation while the other vehicle is at the local jail. I make a plea to the Minister to address the issues I have raised. I again tip my hat to the wonderful men and women in blue at Cessnock Police Station and the Central Hunter Local Area Command.