POLICE have all but confirmed there will be no public service counter at the soon-to-be-opened Somerville police station.
Acting chief commissioner Tim Cartwright says he does not think the demand will justify taking police away from neighbouring police stations.
“My judgement is that I would prefer to have those members available for patrols to Somerville and surrounding areas rather than take them from the neighbouring stations to provide a counter service which I do not think justifies the commitment,” Mr Cartwright told the public accounts and estimates committee on 12 May, adding that a final decision had yet to be made.
He said operating a public counter at Somerville would require four fulltime police.
“I anticipate that we will not provide a counter service from that, but I need to reiterate that we have not made that final decision,” Mr Cartwright said.
A petition calling for a public inquiry counter and a public meeting at Rosebud protesting against police been drained from other Mornington Peninsula stations have preceded the opening of the new police station at the corner of Eramosa Rd West and Coolart Rd.
The committee’s deputy, Mornington MP David Morris, compared the situation at Somerville to an episode of the Yes Minister involving “the hospital that worked beautifully as long as there were no patients”.
“In other words, if you happen to live in Somerville, you need to drive to Mornington or Hastings to get police advice or police assistance, even though there is a $16.3 million brand-new police station in Somerville,” Mr Morris said.
“Not unnaturally, the Somerville community are not particularly happy about that. Minister, Somerville police station may well be — and I think it would almost have to be — the first brand-new police station to open without access to the public in the entire history of this state.”
Police Minister Wade Noonan said Victoria Police was responsible for staffing issues at police stations with the independence of the chief commissioner being reinforced by the previous Coalition government.
“I would probably even draw your attention to a range of police stations throughout the eastern suburbs that the previous government promised would be open certain hours of the day that the previous chief commissioner started to push back on, around operational grounds,” Mr Noonan said.
As reported in The News on 7 April, police sources said that Somerville will house 80 police, including highway patrols now based at Mornington, Hastings and Rosebud, 30 detectives from Rosebud, 11 from Hastings and 10 from Mornington and “the crime desk” from Frankston.
Danielle Fleeton, of police media, said there were no plans to provide “counter service” at Somerville.
“The Somerville community can continue to make face-to-face inquiries at nearby stations, including Hastings and Mornington,” she said.
“The community receives a 24-hour police response [by calling 000] from across the Mornington Peninsula police service area. In addition, there are specialist police servicing the whole division.”