Police numbers improve

POLICE staffing levels have improved, two new detectives have started and crime trends in the Clarence Valley have been mostly static over the past 12 months, senior police told a meeting in Grafton yesterday.

Coffs/Clarence police commander Mark Holahan told a community safety precinct committee meeting yesterday that staffing in the Grafton and Lower Clarence sectors had improved gradually over the past 12 months, and Iluka was about to get a full-time officer.

“We're probably 15% better than we were last year,” he said.

He said the Coffs/Clarence Command had been allocated two new probationary officers in the latest allocation – one would go to Coffs and the other to the Clarence.

“We are a lot better off than this time last year,” he said.

“We have been able to recruit from areas where we haven't been able to recruit before.”

The numbers of people killed in road deaths have also fallen – six died on the region's roads this year compared with 14 for the same period in the previous year.

One of the six was likely to be taken from the numbers as it was believed to be a suicide.

He said that last year most of the deaths were of locals – this year most have been visitors.

Commander Holahan said police were also undergoing a needs analysis to determine where officers were needed most.

At the moment, he said, Coffs Harbour had about 60% of the Command's crime figures, but did not have 60% of the staff.

The Grafton and Lower Clarence areas accounted for about 15% of the crime.

“There are times in winter when we don't need any police if we look at the figures (in this area), but that won't happen,” he said.

The Coffs/Clarence Command has also been identified as being the number one region in the state for clandestine drug labs.

“We've had some fairly large drug arrests,” he said.

“A lot have been people dealing and producing drugs for a long time.

“Most (arrests) don't happen by accident ... we use undercover operatives, covert evidence gathering ... it takes a long time.”

Commander Holahan said police were now gearing up for the World Rally Championships, which would go through parts of the Clarence Valley in early September.

More than 100 police were expected to be on duty in the area.

“We're expecting up to 10,000 people in some parts, which creates massive transport issues,” he said.

Grafton police inspector Murray Gillett said there had been some crime spikes in the summer period but most were stable.

There had, however, been a “disturbing” number of motor vehicles stolen in the Grafton sector.

“A number of cars are left open with the keys in the ignition,” he said.

“The Lower River has been quite pleasing.”

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