An extraordinary meeting of councillors, police, welfare bodies and departmental representatives has been held in Creswick to address the town's struggle to contain a crime and crisis-housing problem.
Hepburn Shire mayor Licia Kokocinski says the meeting, which had been months in planning but delayed by the bushfire season and COVID-19 pandemic, was a round-table between Hepburn Shire, Victoria Police, DELWP, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), UnitingCare and other stakeholders.
"It's clear there is an issue we need to address," Cr Kokocinski told The Courier.
"Unfortunately there are some matters happening in the Creswick area, and what I am hoping to get out of this meeting - which was a terrific meeting with the various departments and not-for-profit players contributing - is to deliver on Tuesday a joint statement about what we intend to do."
The meeting comes as residents of the town express concern about the behaviour of some residents of Creswick's DHHS housing and the town's caravan park, with the recent arrival of camels and ponies being the last straw for one local neighbour, who contacted The Courier with complaints.
However more serious allegations of criminal behaviour involving drug-dealing, theft and violence have been levelled overall, with local councillors acknowledging compliance officers have been unable to attend properties in Reed Street without police assistance, and police making arrests for several offences in the past week.
Cr Kokocinski says the members of the meeting hope to put into place longer and short-term actions to address the situation.
"We do understand and appreciate the community is worried about what's going on, but we also need to recognise we must get in and resolve these situations.
"The people we are talking about, many of them are community members; some are not. There are a whole lot of issues we need to be looking at, and I would prefer until we make a joint statement on Tuesday as we develop our position over the next few days.
"We need to understand availability of crisis accommodation and social housing is very limited in this region and all over Victoria. It's in very short supply; when people are in crisis, there are few places for them to go."
In a statement, the DHHS said it is "working with Hepburn Shire Council to address issues in the Creswick community.
"The Department holds regular meetings with Victoria Police and Shire representatives to share information and address issues of safety and wellbeing for staff and the local community."
The Courier understands one vacant DHHS property in Reed Street has been demolished, with two more listed for future removal.
Police say Creswick has 24-hour response
WHILE some in the Creswick community have long called for more police in the town to deter crime, Moorabool police have said they 'work hard' to ensure community safety.
During the last year, Creswick residents have spoken to The Courier about a plethora of issues such as vandalism, vehicle crime and burglaries.
Many of these crimes have occurred at night, when Creswick police have not been on duty. Creswick is a 16-hour police station which is located in the Moorabool police service area.
As such, when a local member is not on duty, then police are called to respond from Bacchus Marsh - about 50 minutes away.
Feeling they are being targeted for this reason, whether by other residents or people travelling from out of town, it has led numerous residents to express the need for a stronger police presence.
Moorabool local area commander, Acting Inspector Alistair Nisbet, said Victoria Police was working closely with all of the relevant agencies and key members of the community to address the recent concerns raised by the community.
"While Creswick is a non-24 hour police station, we would like to reassure the Creswick community that they do receive a 24-hour police response," he said. "Our officers work extremely hard every day and night to keep Creswick residents and everyone living in the Moorabool police service area safe."
He said frontline police were confident they were providing an effective policing response to the community, with support from specialist units which work across the area, including Highway Patrol, the Divisional Response Unit, Central Highlands Family Violence Investigation Unit and the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team.
Anyone who requires urgent police assistance should call 000 so the nearest police unit can be tasked to respond.
To report non-urgent crime, contact the Police Assistance Line on 131 444. Anonymous reports can be made through Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.