OPPOSITION Police spokesman Edward O’Donohue and Hastings MP Neale Burgess were at the $16.3 million Somerville police complex on Friday voicing their concerns over its lack of counter service.
They wanted to highlight the fact that it “remains closed to the public because of Daniel Andrew’s failure to provide funding for more police”.
Mr Burgess said it was important that he had been allowed inside the police building at the corner of Eramosa Rd West and Coolart Rd, Somerville. He was taken on a 30-minute tour by Acting Senior Sergeant Peter Drake and Detective Sergeant Jason Hocking.
“It was designed as a station for the community,” Mr Burgess said. “Regardless of what our state government would have us believe, that is what it is.”
He blamed the government’s “soft on crime approach” for not providing a public counter service at Somerville and for saying the lack of manning was “an operational issue”.
Detective Senior Sergeant Nick Vallas said yesterday the Somerville complex was “never designed to be staffed by uniformed police”.
“Mr Burgess would have been aware of what the Chief Commissioner [Graham Ashton] said at the time, that the complex would not provide counter service, and that residents could access uniform police at Hastings, Mornington, Dromana, Rosebud and Sorrento,” he said.
Detective Vallas said it is better to have officers out on patrol rather than keeping them in the office around the clock staffing a public counter.
“Within 10 kilometres of Somerville police station we’ve got three 24-hour police stations with a counter response,” Mr Ashton told 774 ABC Melbourne.
“Most people go into our stations not to report a crime but to have stat decs signed or to report on bail.
“Somerville is a police building, not a police station. It’s best to think of it that way. If it was a police station, we’d have a counter service.”
Detective Vallas said policing had “moved away from the 1800s where there was a manned police station in every small town”.
“We only have specialist police here and we have told the public what we are and what we do. If the public want uniformed police they can call Triple 000 even for petty crime.”