The Country Mayors Association of New South Wales has joined forces with the Police Association of New South Wales and NSW Farmers to call for a Parliamentary Inquiry into crime, law and order in rural and regional New South Wales.

CMA chairman and Gunnedah shire mayor Jamie Chaffey said statistics showed residents of rural, regional and remote NSW were more likely to be sexually assaulted, to have their cars stolen, have their homes broken into and more likely to be impacted by domestic violence. When these crimes did occur, the police response was delayed due to the resources available, CMA said.

“It is estimated one-third of New South Wales’ population live outside metropolitan areas but we are still second-class citizens when it comes to the safety of our communities,” Cr Chaffey said.

“For the first time, our CMA annual survey has revealed that crime, law and order is now in the top five emerging issues for NSW local governments.

“We knew crime was increasing, but we looked to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) data to clarify the situation. We were shocked to learn that as well as the alarming incident counts in regional NSW, the rate of incidents per 100,000 people was, in some cases, horrifying when compared to metropolitan figures. Up to 90 per cent of crimes including vehicle theft, breaking and entering, sexual assault and domestic assault are happening here, in our regional communities.

“We also have significantly fewer police than our city cousins, and as a whole, NSW has less police per head of population than Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. Our police officers are already facing an incredible workload, with only one police officer per 467 NSW residents.

“We have not been heard by our state leaders, and our people – particularly the elderly and the vulnerable – are scared. They need to feel safe. They deserve to feel safe.

“In this Country Mayors Association of NSW report endorsed by the Police Association of NSW and NSW Farmers, we are calling for change. Our already-stretched police officers cannot continue to try to address this impossible challenge.

PANSW president Kevin Morton said the report showed that additional police resources were needed to manage crime rates.

“Our regional police officers are expected to be the 24/7 problem solvers,” Mr Morton said. “Police in these regional and remote locations are required to attend emergency situations that cover huge geographical areas with limited staff and resources with little to no back up. When they do call for assistance, it can be an hour away or more.”

He said staffing levels and resources needed to be re-evaluated to reflect contemporary requirements for policing in regional and remote areas.

“Minimum staffing levels must be improved in regional and remote areas where police stations do not operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“In locations with police stations operating 24/7, the outdated model of rostering police officers based on one car per job per hour needs to be updated. This model doesn’t reflect the distance travelling to and from emergency call outs in regional areas, including the time it takes to deal with the matter when you arrive on the scene.”

Mr Morton said police officers were required to pick up the workload of other government departments.

“Police officers are spending hours transporting prisoners hundreds of kilometres across remote areas to correctional facilities, while other government departments close their doors once business hours are over and shift the workload onto our already stretched frontline workers. This is not our job and is taking police officers away from serving their communities.”

NSW Farmers CEO Annabel Johnson said more needs to be done to protect those in rural areas.

“A 2020 survey of farmers found that 81 per cent reported being a victim of farm crime – theft of livestock and equipment, trespass, break and enter, and illegal hunting, and this is a significant risk to safety.

“More concerning is that 64 per cent were worried about crime in general due to repeated victimisation – and while the establishment of the Rural Crime Prevention Team by NSW Police is positive, there needs to be more resources available.”

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