A bitter political row has erupted over how to tackle youth crime in Ballarat after shocking video footage emerged of schoolgirls being bashed in public.
Speaking to reporters in Ballarat yesterday, Premier Daniel Andrews said investing in schools would help stamp out offending after The Courier obtained Snapchat videos showing girls being set upon in Little Bridge Street.
“There’s a whole range of different programs we’re running at the moment around young people who might have done the wrong thing or those who could be at risk,” he said.
“Part of that is taking a tough approach, and I’ve been criticised sometimes for being tough on those who behave appallingly, even if they are young, and I make no apology for that at all.”
The videos show schoolgirls being assaulted by other girls as boys film and taunt the victims.
"Get that angle, f*ck yeah," one boy says while someone films a bashing at Little Bridge Street’s bus stop.
The incidents were seized upon by Opposition members, who have accused the Andrews government of removing 18 police from Ballarat since its election in November, 2014.
Opposition police spokesman Edward O’Donohue took to Facebook to blast the Premier, saying “18 police in Ballarat have been cut, while crime across the Ballarat LGA is up 13.4 per cent.”
In response, Mr Andrews pointed to 3000 new police the government was recruiting, saying “you've got to be very, very careful accepting any figures that come from any would-be on the other side of politics.”
However, Mr O’Donohue said the figure of a decrease of 18 police came from publicly available documents from Victoria Police.
“It’s a low act for Daniel Andrews to completely misrepresent what’s there in black and white, the numbers don’t lie,” he said.
Victoria Police documents show the total amount of policing resources in the Ballarat and Moorabool service areas has fallen slightly from 290.79 to 287.13 since November, 2014.
Indeed, the amount of uniform policing resources in Ballarat has dropped from 133.95 to 115.47 – which equals the figure of 18 police that the Opposition has trumpeted.
But the documents also show “other divisional resources” have increased from 37.53 to 56.03 in Ballarat and Moorabool, suggesting resources in other areas of policing divisions have increased.