Facebook no replacement for police on the beat


It would be too easy to consign the worries of residents in Glenarvon Road, who raised the problems of they were having with crime, to the too-hard basket, telling them they need to get used to living in a city in 2013.

We should be grateful they have spoken out. 

When 40 people sign a petition and call for help from their councillor – in this case Raj Datta – it usually means something significant is happening.  We think it is.

Meena Salgaonkar, who started the petition, could be Strathfield’s answer to Miss Marple. After her house and car were broken into, she spoke to neighbours and noticed a pattern.

What’s more, she decided to do something about it.  She complained to the police and got more patrols in her street. She complained to Ausgrid and got better street lighting – an essential part of crime prevention.

But she also noticed something else.  Tat her fellow residents were resigned to having their property attacked with eggs – there are seven complainants that report egg attacks on her petition – or broken into by crooks.

“We need to be more proactive and make it the police’s priority,” she told the Scene.

We believe she is right.  And we know how she feels.

Two years ago, we exposed the fact that Strathfield’s shopfront police station at the Plaza was just that – a shopfront with no-one in it.  We called for a proper police station, and our calls were supported by local member Charles Casuscelli  and the councillors.

While we didn’t get what everything we wanted – the local police chief explained it would mean taking up to six patrol cars off the road to man it – we did get additional patrols. At least for a while.

We had another suggestion – the return of Neighbourhood Watch, where residents banded together to watch each others’ property, helped by a police officer who knew the locality. 

Today, of course, there are no beat policemen (or women). But we were told a new modern equivalent would deal with this problem – Facebook.

And so it was that www.facebook.com/FlemingtonLACwas launched, with a student from the Australian Catholic University at the helm.

Now we don’t want to sound old fashioned, but we’re not sure today’s criminal, however high tech, is using Facebook (unless it’s on your nicked lap top). And if he or she is, it’s probably to “case” your house and car in preparation for a raid.

A quick look at the entries this week did show over 767 people “like” the page and, when we looked at least, 39 were “talking about it”.

And the latest entry from the Strathflied Precinct Office – who sadly isn’t named – ironically warns residents to lock up their doors and windows during the holidays because of a spate of burglaries.

Now we don’t have a quarrel with the police.  They do an extraordinary job juggling manpower, and have made some major inroads into crime this past 12 months.  Our local Crime Prevention officer James Dickson turn out at every event and has genuine concern for our locality.

But we don’t believe the digital age or Facebook and Twitter are the answer to every problem.  We do believe officers on the beat deter villains, and that knowing a street is vigilant through strong Neighbourhood Watch groups also was a great way of harnessing the energy of residents like Meena Salgaonkar.


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