A revamped Bicycle Patrol Unit will see more police patrolling troubled areas including Little Bridge Street, the Bridge Mall and Stockland Wendouree.
The unit, operating since August, has had 12 shifts resulting in six arrests, arrests for wanted people and a number of traffic notices.
Senior Sergeant Peter McCormick says the unit is tasked to major shopping precincts and operations when “man-power permits”. It is part of a police focus on proactively engaging with the community and ensuring an increased visible police presence.
Bridge Mall shopping centre manager John Marios said visible patrolling by the unit and an increase in foot patrols in the area discouraged anti-social behaviour.
“It’s a very positive proactive operation in terms of its visibility and the mobility that it gives police on patrol,” Mr Marios said.
“It is (a) preventive (approach). It’s the old chestnut – you’d rather prevent crime than pursue people. If you can deter people from doing the wrong thing, that’s better than them committing crimes and ending up in the courts.”
VicHealth reported just over four in 10 residents, around 42 per cent, feel safe walking in their local area at night compared to 55 per cent statewide.
Acting Superintendent Zorka Dunstan said the bicycle patrol unit ensured police has a highly visibly, proactive presence in the community.
She said high visibility and availability of police contributed to the feeling of safety among residents.
“We see bike patrols and foot patrols as a great opportunity for police to get out into the community and speak with people. With the weather improving, it will provide us with another option to get out and provide a visible presence,” Acting Superintendent Dunstan said.
“We live in a very safe community and we encourage the community to protect themselves from crime such as theft from vehicles and home burglaries.
“These types of crimes are opportunistic where we find a large number of car doors and homes are left unlocked. The police and the community need to work together to keep our town of Ballarat safe.”
Senior Constable Mark Partington initiated the reintroduction of the patrol to Ballarat. Bicycle patrol officers must complete a two day training course ensuring their ability to ride in a safe manner. Fitness is also essential – officers rack up 35 kilometres on an average bicycle patrol shift.
“This is a different way to engage with the community and allows us to patrol in areas that the divisional van cannot access,” Senior Constable Partington said.
“The bicycle patrol unit can cover a greater area and have a better response time than the foot patrol.”
Senior Sergeant McCormick said the public feedback had been extremely positive.
“Certainly the feedback we’ve had is they are quite happy to see us down there,” Senior Sergeant McCormick said.
“Our presence down there certainly does work – when we are down there those people that give us trouble are not.”
Changes to infrastructure in the city’s crime hotspots is continuing. Victoria Police is contually working with council and the government to improve the environment to make it less vulnerable to crime, Acting Superintendent Dunstan said.
“CCTV is not always the only solution, it could be as simple as improving the appearance of an amenity, such as cutting down overgrown trees and keeping an area tidy. We find CCTV useful for investigations and it can deter crime.”
The Little Bridge Street Pocket park tender process is expected to begin next year and help create a more sociable area that all residents can enjoy.
“This project will improve part of our city that can do with a spruce up,” Wendouree MP Sharon Knight said.