Powers for PSOs now in effect

Ballarat PSOs responding to an incident with police in 2014. Picture: Lachlan Bence
Ballarat PSOs responding to an incident with police in 2014. Picture: Lachlan Bence

New laws giving Ballarat Railway Station's Protective Service Officers tough new powers have come into force.

Ballarat's PSOs will now be able to arrest someone who has breached their parole conditions, conduct searches for illicit drugs, and ask for the names and addresses of people who witness crime.

They will also be able to respond to incidents in and around the train station along Lydiard, Nolan and Mair streets.

In 2014, Ballarat was one of the first railway stations in regional Victora to receive a team of PSOs to guard platforms and trains.

The sweeping new measures, which came into effect this week, were first announced back in May.

Ballarat’s PSOs have undergone the same training as police for the expanded powers such as searching for drugs.

But they are not sworn police officers and will not be able to conduct investigations or lay charges.

Police Minister Lisa Neville said the new measures would help PSOs respond to crime along the public transport network.

“PSOs are a welcome sight at train stations,” she said. 

“These new powers will ensure PSOs are in the best position to protect and serve the community right across the network.”

PSOs have issued more than 78,000 infringements since they were first deployed across Melbourne train stations back in 2012.

They patrol 216 train stations across the state, including four regional stations such as Ballarat.

Police Association secretary Wayne Gatt, who used to be based in Trentham, had previously welcomed the extra powers handed over to PSOs.

"It is making people safer on trains," Sergeant Gatt said.

However, the Greens opposed the changes.

Greens MP Colleen Hartland said in May the plan would encourage people under the influence of recreational drugs to drive.

“That’s the last thing we want,” she said.

"We’ve been treating personal drug use as a criminal problem for decades, and it’s gotten us nowhere.

“It’s time for the government to listen to the experts, and start treating personal drug use a health issue.

“PSOs are supposed to protect the community from violent crime at stations, but this will make people less safe.”

The Victorian government has also put aside funding for an additional 100 mobile PSOs, who will be rolled out across the network.