Calls to extend powers of train station guards

FEARFUL Ballarat commuters have called for the powers of protective services officers to be extended to cover crime hotspots, including the Little Bridge Street bus stop.

John Odgers waits for a bus on Little Bridge Street.

John Odgers waits for a bus on Little Bridge Street.

Many residents feel the work of PSOs is being wasted at the city’s railway station and that officers would be better placed in areas where crime is escalating. 

Under current legislation, PSOs are not allowed to operate in such areas. 

The call-out comes after another alleged stabbing at the Little Bridge Street bus stop on Wednesday, while there was an attempted stabbing in Peel Street in February and a stabbing in the Bridge Mall in March.

Elderly commuter John Odgers, 79, catches the bus from Little Bridge Street regularly and said he often feared for his safety.

“It’s getting to a point where you don’t want to be anywhere near this place,” he said. “The young ones just don’t think about anyone else and have no regard for the elderly.

“They spit, they yell abuse, they fight ... something needs to be done.”

Fellow commuter David Jones said he recently told off a young male who was urinating on the wheel of a bus. 

“There is a bit of police presence every now and then, but we really need something like the PSOs to be regularly patrolling the area,” he said. 

“I shared a taxi home with an elderly resident recently because we were both a bit worried about the young ones playing up.”

Ballarat’s main public transport company, CDC Ballarat, also said additional security was needed.

CDC depot manager Glenn McKenzie said both drivers and passengers would feel safer with more security in the area. 

“Especially from a commuter’s point of view, it would be great to see something like that (PSOs),” he said. 

Asked if legislation could one day result in PSOs operating in other locations, Police Minister Kim Wells said it was the responsibility of the police to enforce the law in other areas. 

“Under the current Victoria Police Act, PSOs are deployed and are able to exercise a range of powers at rail stations, Parliament House, the law courts and other government offices,” he said.

“PSOs do not have the full range of powers able to be exercised by police and can only exercise their powers at those specific locations.”

Ballarat police Superintendent Andrew Allen said recent operations in the Bridge Mall area had been “encouraging”, with a reduction in crime and public disorder complaints. 

“The community can expect to continue to see a highly visible police presence as mobile and foot patrols in the area have been increased,” Superintendent Allen said. 

The Ballarat Railway Station was among the first regional stations to receive PSOs in April.

Patrolling in pairs from 6pm until the last train, the PSOs have the right to arrest and are armed with a semi-automatic pistol, pepper spray, baton and handcuffs.

Anyone with information relating to anti-social behaviour or crimes occurring in these areas is requested to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or triple-O if police attendance is required.

patrick.byrne@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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