There is a new sergeant with a wealth of experience on the beat in Daylesford.
Sergeant Tim Kennedy always wanted to join the police force. Growing up in the Ballarat region, after finishing school he attended university and traveled for a time before joining the force at 23. He is marking 25 years with Victoria Police this year.
A diverse career
He began his career working on the beat in the western suburbs of Melbourne, before joining the divisional response unit in Broadmeadows.
After becoming a detective, he started working in the major drug investigation unit through Crime Command before transferring to clandestine laboratories, where he worked for four years.
He investigated a number of non-fatal shootings in the northern and western suburbs of Melbourne with the armed crime squad before being seconded to the Santiago Taskforce, investigating middle eastern organised crime for several years.
In the early 2000s he returned home to Ballarat, working as a Detective Senior Constable in the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Unit for almost two years, before being promoted to Sergeant.
Following the devastating Black Saturday bushfires in 2009, he spent three months in Churchill gathering intelligence about suspect Brendan Sokaluk, who was later convicted of lighting two fires in the Latrobe Valley that ultimately killed 10 people.
Seconded back to Crime Command, he worked on Taskforce Sano for two years - established to investigate historic and new allegations emanating from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into child sexual abuse in religious and non-government organisations, alongside the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
From there, he went into the Transit Divisional Response Unit and then spent some time investigating finance and cyber crime through the fraud squad.
When a Sergeant position was advertised at Daylesford Police Station, the "country boy" jumped at the opportunity. Despite his extensive and varied experience in the police force, regional policing was not something he had yet tried his hand at.
"I was born and bred in the area but working in a regional community isn't something I've done before," he said.
He is enjoying the role at the 16-hour station, working alongside six other members based from the Vincent Street station on the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung.
Daylesford police cover an extensive area - from Leonards Hill to Yandoit in the north to Drummond and across to Eganstown - and work closely with other police working in the Hepburn Shire at Creswick, Clunes and Trentham.
With a rich Swiss Italian history, the region's many mineral springs have given it a reputation as 'spa country'.
This, along with the beauty of the landscape and the markets and big events hosted make it a popular destination for tourists. As does its many natural attractions, bush and walking tracks though it means police are often donning their boots to search for lost adventurers.
Surrounded by swathes of dense forest and open paddocks, the risk of bush or grass fire is real in warmer weather. The picturesque bush setting can also result in other dangers to the community, such as the ferocious storms which brought down large trees across the Hepburn and Macedon regions in June.
Preparing and responding to these emergencies is one of the biggest focuses for police.
With the Midland Highway intersecting the area and the Western Freeway close by, road safety is another priority. Last year there were a number of lives lost on roads across the area, as well as several serious injury collisions.
In addition to local patrols, they work with Moorabool Highway Patrol to conduct road policing operations. Sergeant Kennedy said the diversity of the landscape and different road surfaces meant people needed to drive to the conditions - whether on a freeway or on an unsealed gravel road.
This falls in line with the many events hosted in the shire each year, to ensure visitors come to the region and enjoy events and then return home safely.
"We have a big focus on policing the roads and will bring in other resources like the State Highway Patrol when we have big weekends that stretch out capacity."
With so many wineries and licensed premises dotted across the area, he added supporting them to stick to their liquor licenses was also a focus.
Though while often the town is bustling with people at weekends and on school holidays, in between these periods it is a lot quieter. Sergeant Kennedy said supporting businesses and permanent residents in the area was important.
"People come from Melbourne but they're not the ones we have the most exposure to - they come for the weekend and leave. It's the locals who are here from Monday to Friday."
Meanwhile, another ongoing priority is youths and continuing police involvement with schools - such as through the Cook The Chef and Us program - and supporting the work of the youth resource officer for the region, Senior Constable Jim Ross.
He said some of the programs he was involved in were fantastic - such as the Barista Blue program run in Moorabool Shire last year - and would work well if rolled out in Hepburn.
Sergeant Kennedy is passionate about continuing to increase the visibility of police in the community, "to support their needs and wants" regarding community safety. This includes both on the streets and on the roads.
He said some people may not see a car in the driveway of the police station and think it's closed.
"It's quite the opposite. If we're not in the police station we are out patrolling or responding to something in the community," he explained.
While members are on duty for 16 hours, when they are not there is still a police presence as members work closely with surrounding 24-hour stations, while Daylesford members are also rostered to be on-call in case of an incident.
Sergeant Kennedy conceded that while there were seven police working from Daylesford Police Station, they could not be everywhere. So he asked the community to be their "eyes and ears" and importantly, to report any suspicious activity or incidents.
In the year ending March 2021, there were 132 criminal incidents in Daylesford. It was a decrease from 205 the previous year. The majority of incidents were thefts, non-aggravated burglaries and criminal damage.
Whether it is theft from and of cars or machinery or livestock thefts from farms, Sergeant Kennedy said police needed to know about the crimes to be able to investigate and solve them.
While the issue of people living in rural communities and leaving doors to homes and cars unlocked can make people more vulnerable to become victims of crime, he said that if something does occur then people should not hesitate to contact police.
"We ask people to try to secure things as best as possible, but if anything happens let us know," he said. "We want people to have the confidence to come in and see us. You're not bothering us. It's our job to look into it and support people. We want those reports to come through."
We want people to have the confidence to come in and see usSergeant Tim Kennedy
Boosting the confidence of the community to report crimes is a big part of increasing reporting, he said, including of the most serious crimes - such as family violence and assaults - which are believed to be under-reported.
"Family violence is a big priority for police. We want the community to feel comfortable to report it to us and that we will support people through it."
Sergeant Kennedy is embedding himself in support groups, including family violence action groups.
Police in the Moorabool police service area are supported by other units including the Moorabool Crime Investigation Unit and the Central Highlands Family Violence Investigation Unit, which is currently trialing having a satellite team based in Bacchus Marsh.
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