THERE is a new face at Creswick Police Station and he is eager to engage with the community and address concerns.
The next step in a career spanning 16 years, Brett Duncan was officially announced as the new sergeant in Creswick this week after about four months acting in the role.
Previously working in an acting sergeant role in the uniform unit in Ballarat, he had formerly worked as a detective for 10 years - about six years at the Ballarat-based Central Highlands Family Violence Investigation Unit, after stints in Melbourne's eastern suburbs.
While he had a successful career as a detective, his decision to move back into uniform was made after weighing up if he wanted to be a detective for the rest of his career or if he wanted a more dynamic role on the frontline.
"I really enjoy working in uniform and talking to people. Every day you are doing a different job," Sergeant Duncan said.
This is the first time he has worked at a 16-hour station and in addition to being "pretty excited" about the role, he loves the direct connection of working with a small community.
I absolutely love the whole community aspect of people seeing you as 'their police', as opposed to just 'the police'.Sergeant Brett Duncan
"I absolutely love the whole community aspect of people seeing you as 'their police', as opposed to just 'the police'. So you're a lot more accountable to them with what you do and how you respond to things," he said.
Recently the town - a former gold mining town that then became known as the home of forestry - has often been in the headlines for the wrong reasons - youth-related crime, burglaries, vehicle crime, assaults and murder.
Additionally, tensions came to a head late last year when the former sergeant broke his leg while trying to arrest a teenage boy.
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Sergeant Duncan acknowledged this history and said police were actively working to address concerns. They are currently focused on two key priorities: addressing youth offending and hoon driving.
A group of disengaged youths, who don't attend school, are well known in the town and have allegedly been responsible for vandalism, destruction of property and assaults.
"We are working with the youth tasking unit at Ballarat, who cover the whole division, and we are in regular talks about these youths," he said.
Sergeant Duncan said police were also regularly meeting with stakeholders, including the Department of Health and Human Services and council, every week to consider solutions regarding the youths and other community concerns about public housing and the town's caravan park.
Several options are currently on the table.
Creswick police are also targeting dangerous driving. They are currently running a month-long overnight operation in an effort to catch any hoons, unlicensed and disqualified drivers.
"Afterwards, we'll assess it and we'll come up with another one if we have to," he said.
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Sergeant Duncan wants to continue to build on the notion of himself and the three other police members who work in Creswick as being the "town's police".
Frequently community members saunter up to them for a casual chat on the street. It is something he hasn't experienced before, having come from the city, but believes it is imperative to continue to boost confidence in police.
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"We will try to increase the community's confidence in us because a lot of people on social media seem to think we either don't exist or we're not here, but we are," he said.
While it is not a 24-hour police station, police work in the town 7 days a week and are on-call overnight.
By being more visible and trying to engage, he hopes community members will directly communicate issues with police so they can work to resolve them.
"We can't do our job effectively without them and their support," he said.
While many community groups aren't meeting at the moment due to social restrictions put in place to reduce the spread of COVID, Sergeant Duncan said police would become more involved with community groups and local sporting clubs when they are lifted.
This will include attending their meetings as well as commencing regular Coffee With A Cop sessions.
"We want to know what we are doing well and what we can improve on, and then we will feed back the results of the work we are doing or the outcomes of those partnerships to the community through the same engagement as well as online and print media," he said.
While Creswick Police Station's reception is currently closed due to COVID, police are still working from the station each day.
Residents can attend the station if an appointment is made - to report an incident, for police to take a statement or if a document needs to be certified.
Sergeant Duncan said he was happy for any community member to contact him directly with a problem and he would try to resolve it.
He added it was vital that community members report crime or an issue correctly.
For an urgent police response, call 000. This means the closest police unit will be dispatched to respond.
To report a matter that does not require an urgent police response, such as theft, file a report through the Police Assistance Line. To anonymously report an incident, such as hooning or drug dealing, contact Crime Stoppers.
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