Top WA Police chief says Mandurah has enough officers, despite crime surge

A top WA Police chief says there are enough police officers in Mandurah despite a series of burglaries and serious incidents in the area over the last month.

Mandurah was in the headlines again last week after a series of burglaries on commercial businesses in the region by masked offenders, including a ramraid at Tackle World on Monday, andtwo burglaries at Sportspower within the space of a week.

This comes after a series of serious incidentsin Smart Street Mall last month, including a stabbing, the assault of an elderly man setting up his market stall, and anout-of-control brawl captured on video.

As a result, Mandurah Police have launched two new operations.

The first, Sky Kite 3, will see officers tackle anti-social behavior in the Smart Street Mall by increasing foot patrols at nighttime and during busy periods.

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WA Police Metropolitan Region Acting Commander Andy Greatwood, who is ordinarily the Mandurah District Superintendent, told the Mandurah Mail the operation would run from July to September.

"Every three months we assess what our priorities are, so rather than putting out fires each day, we say what is a longer-term issue that we want to get on top of," he said.

"We will be visible and out there supporting the businesses in the CBD area."

The second operation, Pointbreak, is working to apprehend offenders committing burglaries at commercial premises, including the recent burglaries at Sportspower, Tackle World and Rebel Sport.

In these burglaries, high-value fishing equipment, sporting goods and tools were stolen.

As a result, Mathew Colin Hartley, 30, of no fixed address was charged with burglaries at businesses across Mandurah and Fremantle between June 22 and July 8.

He has not entered a plea to a string of charges and is due to reappear in the Rockingham Magistrates Court on July 16.

'Crime fluctuates'

Acting Commander Greatwood said crime in the Mandurah District had increased by 8 per cent compared to the last financial year, but reiterated crime fluctuates.

"It goes up one year, it goes down one year," he said.

"So what we do is we look at trends over the years."

Acting Commander Greatwood said crime in Mandurah dropped 10.3 per cent in the 2016/17 financial year and another 13.6 per cent in the 2017/18 financial year.

"We are quite comfortable with about 8 per cent, we are not panicking, but what we do is we ask why," he said.

"What has increased, what hasn't increased and the things that have increased is what we jump on."

The Mail recently reported on newly appointed Opposition leader Liza Harvey questioning the police restructure, which was changed last year, and the demand on resources in the Mandurah police district.

Current police minister Michelle Roberts disputed Ms Harvey's claims and said the restructure had been a success so far.

We are quite happy with the way the licenced premises in Mandurah are being run

WA Police Metropolitan Region Acting Commander Andy Greatwood

Acting Commander Greatwood said there were enough officers in the Mandurah district.

"Yes there is and our response times are pretty good," he said.

Acting Commander Greatwood said there were two on-duty Licencing Enforcement Division officers in Norma Jeans nightclub on June 29, when the out-of-control brawl took place in the Smart Street Mall.

"We had two other cars there within two minutes," he said.

"The reality of policing these days is we can't be everywhere, but if we're that close when something happens, that shows that you have sufficient resources and you are well on top of what you perceive is going to happen.

"I specifically asked (the Licencing Enforcement Division) to come down and go to all the licenced premises, and make sure we were comfortable with how they were operating and the behaviour was good.

"We do have that level of comfort, we are quite happy with the way the licenced premises in Mandurah are being run."

Acting Commander Greatwood said the fight started between two groups near Grill'd restaurant.

"They may have been going to Norma Jeans but we don't know," he said.

"Ultimately they clashed and it happened to be in the mall. There were some fools who decided to fight."

Petition for more resources

WA Police Union president Harry Arnott said the entire state needed more police officers.

"Any resourcing issues facing the Mandurah district are a direct result of this government's refusal to supply the state of WA with more police officers," he said.

"A decision which will put communities at risk.

"The government continues to increase responsibilities placed upon police officers by introducing more legislation, which increases their workloads and pressures."

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup said he had launched a petition calling on the state government to allocate more resources to the Mandurah district.

The police are doing the best they can with what they have, but they need more support from the state government.

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup

"We want a permanent fixed police presence in the CBD, 24 hours a day," he said.

"Ideally, a shopfront or kiosk at the Smart Street Mall and the esplanade so they are are there as a preventer and a responder to local crime."

Mr Kirkup said the recent crime spate was impacting business and tourism.

"The police are doing the best they can with what they have, but they need more support from the state government," he said.

"They can't ignore the problems in Mandurah.

"The people in the community are rightly concerned and some have even called it a crisis."

Mr Kirkup said he had held concerns about the police restructure and was recently told the region lost experienced police officers, as a result.

"I have been told we have lost some local sergeants under the restructure," he said.

The people in the community are rightly concerned and some have even called it a crisis.

Dawesville MP Zak Kirkup

"I think that has had an impact on our community."

Mandurah MP David Templeman said he would be keeping a close eye on the issue.

"The recent high profile crimes which have occurred across Mandurah are unacceptable and I feel for those businesses affected," he said.

"We have reinstated Mandurah's status as a district in its own right, ensuring extra police resources are available to respond in a vastly smaller district centred around Mandurah.

"Commissioner (Chris) Dawson also increased the number of Regional Operations Groups from two to three, boosting the additional police resources available to districts.

"However, as a long term resident of Mandurah and as local member, I will keep fighting to ensure that we have police resources available to respond effectively where necessary."

Acting Commander Greatwood said sergeants provided supervision and oversight, but there were many levels above the position, including a senior sergeant and the officer in charge.

He said the sergeant takes a lead in a team and follows the direction of the senior sergeant, who is in charge of the police station.

Acting Commander Greatwood said the senior sergeant follows the direction of the district office, whose role is to issue a corporate direction for the area.

"What we concentrate on at the sergeant level is the local policing priorities and he or she has to make sure their team is working towards those priorities," he said.

"I am pretty comfortable. We have some good sergeants and good direction.

"But the priorities change based on the circumstances and the things that occur day to day. That's the reality of policing, it's very dynamic."

'We need to be mobile'

Acting Commander Greatwood said a police shopfront stationed in Smart Street Mall would be a "poor use of resources".

"The reason being is, if we had a kiosk or a booth in one location, there is an expectation those police would be in that one location," he said.

"But the reality is, there might be nothing happening.

"The reality of policing today is we attend literally hundreds of jobs per day so we need to be mobile - we really need to be in the vehicle.

"The priority could come from kilometres away and they need to get there in a timely way and assist the community in their time of need.

"While we can argue it might improve some perception, or they may respond to things in that area, that's fine, but it's just not practical nowadays with the current environment where police are required all over the place."

Police Minister Michelle Roberts said the newest district model allowed extra police resources to be available, with officers responding in a smaller area centered around Mandurah.

"Local Mandurah police and other officers including Rockingham detectives have responded promptly to recent incidents," she said.

"Police responded to a recent brawl in the mall in around three minutes and the offender who broke into the fishing tackle and sporting goods stores was apprehended and charged with multiple offences within 24 hours.

"Zak Kirkup is seeking to gain political advantage out of others misfortune. He has absolutely no credibility.

"The former Liberal government, in which Liza Harvey was police minister and deputy premier, took district status away from Mandurah and transferred officers out of Mandurah reducing the local police response.

"Crime, including burglary, is well down on the highs experienced during the Barnett and Harvey Government."

Statistics provided by Ms Roberts office show burglary in the Mandurah police district has decreased from 1535 incidents in the 2014/15 financial year, to 1254 incidents in the 2018/19 financial year.

Other data shows non-family related assaults have decreased from 434 in the 2014/15 financial year, to 388 in the 2018/19 financial year.

Mandurah mayor Rhys Williams held a small meeting attended by local police and politicians on Friday to discuss recent crime issues.

Mandurah MP David Templeman, Mr Kirkup, Acting Commander Greatwood and City of Mandurah officers were present.

After the meeting, Mr Williams took to his Facebook page to express his desire for a "permanent increase in policing resources".

He said council officers had provided police with the names of five people "causing trouble in the area" and encouraged community members to report any similar information to police.

Police are still asking for information on the commercial burglaries. To report a crime or provide information to police contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.