THE statewide shortage of police officers has hit the Hamilton Police Station with the announcement of a significant reduction in front desk reception hours.
From late November, the local reception counter will go from being stationed with personnel 24-hours a day down to 16 hours, with the nearest 24-hour station being Warrnambool Police Station – 97 kilometres
In a statement released to the public, Victoria Police said it was only a temporary measure with Hamilton listed as one of 43 police stations across the state to reduce counter hours during off peak times - predominantly at night when counters were less frequented by members of the public.
The objective of reducing staffed counter hours is to ensure as many police as possible are available to be diverted to the frontline.
A Hamilton Police Station officer told The Spectator that although the counter would be unstaffed for some of the time, police would continue to patrol the local community and be working within the station.
Victoria Police said as a result of the changes, officers formerly rostered on reception shifts will instead be used for frontline policing duties, such as community patrols.
This gives police the best opportunity to respond to urgent incidents, prevent crime before it can occur, and engage with large sections of the community.
It would also provide important rostering flexibility at a time when Victoria Police is currently managing a significant number of officer vacancies due to attrition.
The statement said similar changes to reception counters were implemented during the pandemic, with no adverse impact on the Victorian community.
It is expected 23 police stations will reduce reception counter hours towards the end of November.
A further 20 stations were also earmarked for reduced counter hours in the coming months.
Further scheduling work is underway and once this is confirmed, the community will be notified around the exact dates that changes will occur.
The vast majority of impacted stations will retain reception counter coverage for either 16 or 8 hours per day, while most impacted stations are within 10km of the nearest 24-hour reception counter.
Updated reception counter hours will remain in place at each of the 43 stations while Victoria Police continues to recruit to fill current vacancies.
Victoria Police deputy commissioner regional operations, Neil Paterson, reassured the public that no police stations would be closing.
“Make no mistake - Victoria Police is not closing any police stations,” he said.
“Reception counter hour reductions will occur predominantly during the evening or overnight when we know they are rarely attended.
“Every Australian policing jurisdiction is currently experiencing resourcing challenges and police counter reductions are also occurring in other states.
“When given the choice, police know crime is most effectively deterred and detected via highly visible patrols in the community, rather than from behind a scarcely attended reception counter.
“The vast majority of people attending police stations do so during the day, most regularly to have statutory declarations signed or documents certified.
“Redirecting officers towards frontline policing duties will increase the likelihood of crime being prevented, offenders being arrested, and the community remaining safe.”
Signage will be clearly displayed on any police stations affected by counter reductions re-directing the public to their nearest open reception counter, while the Victoria Police website will also reflect amended station counter open hours.
In an emergency, the community is always directed to call Triple Zero (000) for emergencies or the Police Assistance Line for non-urgent reports.