MORNINGTON Peninsula residents fed up with crime are behind a push for “community” policing in the fight back against a recent spate of thefts, home invasions and aggravated burglaries.
At a community meeting in Hastings on Wednesday night (8 February), victims of crime, police, political representatives, Mornington Peninsula Shire Council and local businesses met to discuss community concerns and ways people could share information and work together to combat rising crime, much of which is youth related.
The high number of thefts, home invasions and burglaries in recent months has alarmed peninsula communities, and led to calls for better coordination of all community resources (“Community concern over crime spree” The News 7/2/23).
One of the organisers of the meeting, Western Port Neighbourhood Watch founder Peter De Wever, said communities were an integral part in reducing crime, and needed to work “together”.
“A few of us got together because of local crime, especially over the school holidays, and thought if we could get communities working as one we had a chance at combatting the problem,” he said.
“There are plenty of preventative programs out there, but the problem is that one group may not know what the other groups are doing, and we need to work together.
“We have great services like the neighbourhood house, youth groups and the blue light disco, but we all need to foster respect between the community and kids – stop the negativity and build on that sense of community.”
De Wever said the meeting was important to give authorities and community services an understanding of what the community concerns were – from tagging and graffiti to burglary and car theft – and to address those issues before residents “get the pitchforks out”.
“People are worried, and we need to put this fire out,” he said.
“Everyone has been touched by it in some way, so we all need to play a part … we can all look out for our elderly or sick neighbours, get to know your neighbour, we can all notice things that are going on in our neighbourhood. Neighbourhood watch isn’t about being nosey, it’s about community.”
Residents on the other side of the peninsula are also agitating for better use of community eyes and ears.
Mount Eliza resident Michael Hamilton says it’s time to revive a Mount Eliza Frankston South Neighbourhood Watch group that started two years ago but fizzled out mainly due to lack of volunteers.
“I think with what’s been going on around here it’s time to have another go at Neighbourhood Watch, I think people really want to be involved now to keep communities safe,” he said.
“The problem is these things need volunteers and commitment to drive them, and with people being so time poor, that’s an ongoing battle.”
Hamilton said he had noticed more and more social media posts mentioning vigilante-style patrols.
“People are frustrated, but that’s not the way to go about it,” he said.
The Mount Eliza and Frankston South Neighbourhood Watch site is an online portal where people can report local concerns or crimes and find information on safety-related matters.
Hamilton said he had noticed a growing need in the community for “awareness” of what’s going on and the sharing for information, with a proliferation of social media sites reporting crime.
“Given what’s been happening around the peninsula, I think we will see an uptake in Neighbourhood Watch groups and a community approach to reducing crime.”