THE launch of a Pyrenees Shire-based community safety initiative will give regional centres confidence that their communities are safe, say police.
However, the Pyrenees Community Safety Advisory Group, which launched in Beaufort on Tuesday, is not to be seen as a response to concerns about police coverage which have been raised by some small town residents this week.
This week, a Creswick family told The Courier that they had waited an excessive amount of time for police to arrive after they reported an early morning disturbance at their property.
Ballarat acting Superintendent Dan Davison said the new group - which will meet bi-monthly - includes members from Victoria Police, Pyrenees Shire Council, Department of Justice and Community Safety, Department of Health and Human Services, Women's Health Grampians, Grampians Primary Care Partnership, Regional Roads Victoria, Avoca Primary School, Beaufort Secondary College and health services from Maryborough, Beaufort and Skipton.
He said the group would provide the community an opportunity to have their say on issues surrounding regional towns like farm crime, illicit drugs use, road safety, youth crime and mental health issues.
"All members of the Pyrenees Community Safety Advisory Group share a common goal and that is for Pyrenees residents to be safe and feel safe," Superintendent Davison said.
"We hope to make genuine, lasting change on areas of community safety and perceptions of safety."
Pyrenees Shire Mayor Robert Vance said he disagreed with perceptions that small towns like Beaufort and Creswick were unsafe after dark, despite a lack of of stationed officers in small towns after hours.
"People are becoming more and more aware, I think we've been a bit complacent in the past," Cr Vance said.
"If we know there are community contacts there, there will be more talk about it and provide more recognition that it is there.
"Living in rural areas, everybody knows everybody and we stand up for one another. Now you have an opportunity we can go to people like Dan and the local sergeant and you can be confident you'll get a response."
Cr Vance said small towns had to be realistic about how many police would be stationed in their town.
"Unless you've got three members there, it's very difficult to create 24-hour coverage," he said.
"At the end of the day, crime statistics set the agenda. I don't believe there is a perception out there that there's no police coverage, I'm sure some people feel that way, but it's not a general feel I don't believe.
"I believe the State Government is doing as well as they can."
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