News : Centralised Police Calls 'Let People Down'
Feb 1, 2012 -- Residents in the Katherine region are struggling to understand why non-emergency calls to Katherine police are being answered in Darwin.
But the latest outcry about the centralised police call centre in Darwin has now come from the Lajamanu Law and Justice Group, a group of senior Warlpiri men and women, who have raised concerned about the community safety in Lajamanu.
"We are concerned that the current practice of diverting ... phone calls from remote police stations to a Darwin-based call centre means that people in the Lajamanu community are unable to directly contact their local police members in times of need," Robert Chapman said on behalf of the Lajamanu Law and Justice Group.
"This leads to delays when we try to call police and is hindering us in our efforts to minimise grog in the community and we are worried it is only a matter of time until these delays lead to a serious injury or worse," Mr Chapman said.
He said night patrol staff, elders and community members were in strong support of the community’s no-alcohol laws, however, they are not allowed to confiscate alcohol brought into the community.
"The police say we need to call police when we find people in cars breaking the grog rules, but our phone calls get sent to Darwin call centre where they don’t understand the names and places and people when we tell them," Mr Chapman said.
"By the time the message gets through to the local police those trouble-makers are usually gone.
"(We are) worried that sending phone calls to Darwin and stopping community leaders from confiscating grog is taking away people’s confidence in police and making us feel powerless to keep our community dry.
"We know it is not the local policemen’s fault."
In late 2010, Northern Territory Police decided all phone calls made to remote police stations out of business hours would be directed to the Darwin call centre instead of local police stations.
But local Member for Katherine, Willem Westra van Holthe, said the centralisation of phone calls to Darwin and the "lack of response by police to these calls" has been an ongoing battle for residents in Katherine, since police started to automatically transfer phone calls to the Katherine police station to Darwin last year.
"(Even) a number of police officers have spoken to me about the problem and the lack of service being provided in Katherine," he said.
"This is a real community safety issue and it’s just a matter of time before someone dies because local calls aren’t being answered locally.
"In some remote localities, local police are providing private mobile numbers to senior community members to get around the logjam at the Darwin call centre," Mr Westra van Holthe said.
"This is clearly unacceptable.
"Hard working police officers are left having to answer the hard questions from irate residents about a policy of this government that is clearly letting people down.
"I have committed in the past and reaffirm that commitment now – if the government is changed in August, local calls will be answered locally."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Friday, February 03, 2012
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