Locals attend Neighbourhood Watch meeting after crime wave

The next step in Roma’s Neighbourhood Watch Program (NHW) is entirely up to the community, after various stakeholders throughout the Maranoa came together to discuss the possibility of forming a group in response to growing concerns of house and business break-ins and car thefts.

Roma Police Officers including Inspector Ray Vine, Officer in Charge Duane Frank, Acting Senior Constable Danielle Logan from the Crime Prevention Unity, constable Dion Horn and constable Yasmin Smajic met with Maranoa Regional Councillors, Warrego MP Ann Leahy and about 30 residents to discuss the possibility of redeveloping a NHW program in Roma.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 17 at the council auditorium, Inspector Vine told residents that NHW programs encourage community members to work together to reduce crime and enhance community safety.

He said the program had to be led by locals and partnered with the police.

"The program certainly needs to be community driven, police will certainly assist and partner to get the program up and running, if that's what the community wants, but we don't run the program,” Inspector Vine said.

New to the Roma division, constable Logan told residents the program’s objectives are to improve community safety; improve household/building security; reporting of suspicious activity; ensuring property is appropriately marked; and marketing the program to people in the region.

Residents were told they can start a NHW program through either an online forum where people can get together through a blog and share information that is overlooked by local police; or traditionally, meet face-to-face.

Alternatively, the officer offered another service ‘Coffee with a Cop’ where officers will meet with residents regularly to provide updates, statistics, bring along an officer from various departments like Scenes of Crime or Road Policing, for example.

Constable Logan suggested the community begin with the online forum to ensure there is community interest.

She noted Roma previously had a NHW program, however it finalised after about a year due to interest fading away.

She told residents to keep in mind that all NHW programs must have various roles governed by NHW in Brisbane, such as a co-ordinator, events planner, minute taker etc.

However, these community initiatives can make a vital difference to small communities.

For example, constable Logan said in Bundaberg, their NHW program lobbied for funding to change a 60km per hour zone to a 50 km per hour zone to reduce hoons in the area.

In order to remind residents they can access various information about crime in the Maranoa, Inspector Vine directed people to the Queensland Online Crime Map.

He said locals can see what crimes were allegedly committed in streets in Roma and at what time they were allegedly committed.

The map allows residences to compare results from the last week to the last two years.

He said in order to reduce crime, it also comes down to simple acts like locking your cars and houses.

Inspector Vine told the meeting that officers recently conducted an initiative ‘Lock it or Lose it’ and checked 140 cars, which saw only about 40 locked, with one having over $3000 in cash inside.

He reminded residents about 10 per cent of crime is house break-ins, however there has been a small spike in business and school break-ins.

He said Roma was home to a small group of offenders who committed these crimes and that historical trends show that once or twice a year there will be a group in the community that will offend widely until caught.

“We are seeing usual low levels of crime, it’s a pretty safe place to work and live and do business in,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we have had that spike which is why there is this community concern.”

After several concerns were raised from residents about juvenile crime in Roma, Ms Leahy said it’s unfortunate there are so many damaged children in the area who require various services.

“It’s not a short-term fix, there’s a lot of legal things that need to happen in the long term to deal with this problem we face,” Ms Leahy said.

“But at the moment, all the magistrate can do, and I’ve seen it 20 times kids are going back to court … you all get a second change, and rightfully so, but 20 chances,” she questioned.

“But the magistrate has no other option to let them go and it needs that legislative backing, and we agree with that, there needs to be breach of bail in place, especially if you are a reoffender.”

In order to prevent juvenile crime, sergeant Frank reminded the community officers do engage in an Adopt a Cop and visit schools in the Maranoa regularly and have done a ‘Lolly drive’ and told residents all it takes is engaging with local officers to see what initiatives or ways in which they can assist to make the community safer.

Sergeant Frank reminded people if they are feeling concerned about their safety to contact the local police on 4622 9333, triple-0 if it’s urgent or through Crime Stoppers if you want to remain anonymous.

Constable Logan will review the feedback from the meeting and see whether there is interest in the community to take the next step with a NHW program.

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