Concerned stakeholders and agencies looking for a solution to the youth crime and housing problems afflicting Creswick have been left frustrated waiting for a response from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
Following a roundtable meeting convened last week and reported by The Courier, both government agencies and other local government and aid bodies agreed to the issue being subject to a joint response, which would be drafted by the DHHS and released on Tuesday.
They are still waiting.
Hepburn Shire mayor Licia Kokocinski expressed her frustration at the delay, telling The Courier it was clearly agreed during the meeting a joint statement was both desirable and required.
Cr Kokocinski said the attendees at the meeting - Victoria Police, Hepburn Council, DELWP, Youth Justice, Uniting Ballarat, and DHHS - had determined there was a need to urgently address a developing community fear of criminal activity.
That community fear was expressed to The Courier, who spoke to several locals over the weekend, all of whom gave anecdotal examples of what one described as "a rising crime spree", from the burning of stolen cars to threats of violence, theft from homes and vehicles to drug sales and vandalism. They asked not to be identified as they feared reprisals.
One woman described watching youths break into her car and steal her handbag as she swam at St Georges Lake. When she confronted the thieves, the woman said they laughed, telling her, "What are you gonna f**king do about it, f**k off."
Another told The Courier some of the perpetrators were well-known and repeat offenders.
"We know where they live, the cops know where they are, but it just keeps happening," the local said.
"They get caught and they're back here in a week or two sometimes."
Police have made several arrests in Creswick in the past fortnight, including one involving the criminal use of a dog as an attack animal, which The Courier understands involved a joint police/council compliance effort. The Courier is also aware Victoria Police is attempting to return Creswick Police Station to its nominal gazetted strength after officers took leave.
Both Cr Kokocinski and long-serving councillor Don Henderson, who attended the meeting, has worked in youth programs for many years and shares the community's frustrations about crime in Creswick, attested that while they are annoyed at the delay, the meeting will hopefully serve as a point to begin dealing with crime and housing issues meaningfully.
"All the agencies attending the zoom conference last week committed to working together to try to resolve the many issues about Creswick youth - two areas in particular," Cr Kokocinski said.
IN OTHER NEWS:
"The meeting involved senior officers at regional director or manager level. We agreed that DHHS would draft a joint response... and send it to all the parties to put our names to. The statement would acknowledge that:
- the issues were systemic and no one agency can do it alone,
- it would require all the parties working together,
- there was a commitment to working together,
- the community was expecting the various agencies to actually do something because of the fear that is developing in the community, and,
- there were available client information platforms that could be shared with for example, VicPol.
- Finally, we would meet in six weeks time.
The Courier contacted DHHS repeatedly for this story. No response was issued by deadline.
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