Victoria Police has rejected claims that frontline officers have been removed from Ballarat, saying they have been transferred into specialist units to clamp down on high-level offending.
The rebuke comes amid a fierce political row over police numbers in the city after video footage emerged of schoolgirls being bashed in public.
Opposition members turned the blowtorch on the Andrews government after The Courier published shocking videos of girls being set upon in Little Bridge Street last week, accusing it of removing 18 frontline police since its election in November, 2014.
Victoria Police documents confirm 18 frontline police have been pulled from Ballarat since 2014, falling from 133 to 115 officers.
However, the same documents also show “other divisional resources” have received an extra 18 police in the Ballarat and Moorabool policing areas, which takes in Bacchus Marsh and outlying rural towns.
It’s understood these 18 police have been transferred into family violence, highway patrol and burglary units.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman said the number of police positions fluctuates between units and that numbers in Ballarat and Moorabool have “remained steady in recent years”.
“The ‘other divisional resources’ category includes family violence police and other divisional tasking units and response units,” she said.
“In (Ballarat and Moorabool), it is not correct to say that the number of uniform police numbers have decreased, as some of these numbers now appear under other divisional resources areas.
“For example, we are now putting dedicated resources into family violence and special tasking to deal specifically with high volume and high impact offending.”
Police Minister Lisa Neville said the Opposition was “trying to mislead the community” and pointed to 14 extra police and 24 custody officers the government was recruiting in Ballarat.
But Opposition police spokesman Edward O'Donohue remained steadfast in his criticism, saying the documents show 18 frontline police that man divvy-vans had been removed from Ballarat as the city’s population spikes.
He said the 18 police transferred from Ballarat’s frontline to other duties would now have to cover both Ballarat and Moorabool’s areas.
“For the first two years of his government, Daniel Andrews was asleep at the wheel regarding police numbers and community safety with places like Ballarat paying the price,” Mr O’Donohue said.
“Anyway you spin it, police resources are down significantly in Ballarat.”
The documents also show the overall amount of police officers in Ballarat and Moorabool – not Ballarat alone - has fallen by 3.6 full-time equivalent staff since 2014.