Gunnedah Shire Council has welcomed the NSW government’s announcement of an Inquiry into Community Safety in Regional and Rural Communities, and urges community members to have their say.

Council supported a Country Mayors Association of NSW call for an inquiry following a dangerous increase in crime in regional and rural areas across the state.

Gunnedah shire mayor Jamie Chaffey said the statistics showed clearly there were disproportionate crime levels and fewer police resources in regional and rural NSW and it was now up to community members to bring the full extent of the crisis to the attention of the government.

“This is a great first step and now that we have the attention of our members of parliament, it is up to us all to make sure that we are sharing our lived experience and any suggestions we have about how to stop the severity and instances of crime,” Cr Chaffey said.

“We also need to make it clear that there is a real need for adequate support for both victims and perpetrators that will lead to a safer community. We need to share the importance of pro-active policing and a 24-hour police station in Gunnedah, a change that can only happen with an increase in police numbers.

“We also need to provide any other information that you feel our elected members of parliament need to understand when they are making decisions that will affect our confidence in our own safety.

“Whether you have been impacted by crime, know someone who has, whether you work or have previously worked in related services, or come from another state or country that has implemented great working strategies, you need to make your voice heard.

“We need Gunnedah shire people to be outspoken on this critical issue. We want as many people as possible to seize this opportunity to let the NSW government know what is happening in our community and help bring about real change.”

Cr Chaffey said he would be advocating for one of the inquiry hearings to be held in Gunnedah shire.

Meanwhile, Member for Tamworth Kevin Anderson urged the committee to visit Gunnedah along with Tamworth for public hearings.

“Our community has a right to feel safe in our homes and a recent rise in youth crime has taken that right away from many in our community,” Mr Anderson said.

“Only then will they gain a true understanding of what is happening in our communities.

“The inquiry will also look at workforce issues for our police, and how they can better support our NSW Police officers.”

Chair of the Committee for Law and Safety, Edmond Atalla, said the inquiry would investigate the drivers of youth crime in the regions and actions the NSW government can take to improve community safety.

“As well as looking at the root causes of youth crime, the inquiry will also examine the wraparound and diversionary services available for youth and families in the regions and rural areas. We will consider how the NSW government can better match services to individuals and how these services can be measured, improved and coordinated to divert youth from crime,” Mr Atalla said.

“Throughout its work, the inquiry will have regard to the NSW government’s commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal people.

“We will also look at staffing and workforce issues in regional and rural areas, the pressures on NSW Police officers and the impact of recidivism on regional communities, on services and on law enforcement.”

The inquiry comes just as the NSW government has strengthened bail laws to help prevent repeat youth crime and introduced a new performance crime offence targeting those who advertise certain crimes on social media.

Parliament passed legislative changes last Thursday to amend the Bail Act 2013 to include a temporary additional bail test for young people between 14 and 18 charged with committing certain serious break and enter offences or motor vehicle theft offences while on bail for similar offences.

Under the change, a bail authority such as police, magistrates and judges will need to have a high degree of confidence that the young person will not commit a further serious indictable offence while on bail before granting bail. The bail amendments are a temporary measure that will sunset after 12-months. The government has also created a ‘performance crime’ offence in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) imposing an additional penalty of two years’ imprisonment for people who commit offences and share material to advertise their involvement in the criminal behaviour.

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