Crime rates down

REGION - A report released by the Wimmera Southern Mallee Crime Prevention Reference Group has revealed the crime rate in the Stawell region has remained low, despite increases in various crimes over the past twelve months.

The report was presented to the latest meeting of the Northern Grampians Shire Council and indicated that certain crimes were starting to rise in the past year.

Chief executive officer, Justine Linley, said in early reference group meetings, information was provided that this region has the lowest crime rate in the state.

However, Ms Linley advised council that in the past 12 months the following activity had been recorded:

* Crimes against women/children were up 66%.

* Sex-related crime up 39%.

* 148% increase in intervention orders sought.

* 75% increase in referral to services.

* 60% of all crime is in the less than 25 years age group.

* Family Violence reporting dramatically increased from 55 in 2010 to 378 in 2011.

Ms Linley said the group encouraged a whole community approach to preventing and reducing crime.

"Key local crime prevention issues and potential solutions that emerged in each inaugural reference group meeting reflect the diversity of challenges facing individual regional communities," she said.

"The focus of the early meetings of the reference group was the establishment of priority areas and the development of a better understanding across agencies and levels of government about what crime prevention is.

"The formal definition of crime prevention is 'effective multi-stakeholder community crime prevention creates safer communities by targeting at-risk groups and intervening as early as possible to reduce the likelihood of involvement in crime'."

Mr Linley said success factors included a whole of community approach, relying on partnerships and monitoring and predicting emerging issues.

"Crime Prevention occurs when agencies work together with the community to identify and reduce the underlying causes of crime," Ms Linley said.

"After several meetings and examining the available data, the reference group has agreed that the best focus of attention is an early intervention approach with the objective that young people offend less. The agreed approach features two distinct models, aimed at different sections of the 'at risk' community."

The first model is the Community Based Mentor Model.

This model aims to re-engage youth in constructive pro-social community behaviour using mentoring.

The second model is the Comprehensive Case Management Model. This model aims to strengthen the family unit and build capacity to make good choices. The intention is to engage young people before they proceed too far into the Justice System by identifying some families who are at substantial risk. Additional criteria for involvement might include truancy, family violence, sexual assault, drug and alcohol issues, mental health factors, homelessness or transience, early offending, unemployment or financial disadvantage.

"Council is committed to working to address issues of disadvantage and to encourage social inclusion and provide support to vulnerable families," Ms Linley said.

"Council has an opportunity to increase its advocacy and participation in positive, collaborative crime prevention initiatives in the region. It is proposed that council continue a formal involvement in both Crime Prevention projects and endorse the objective of the WSM CPRG, namely that Young People Offend Less."

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