THERE was an unprecedented show of force in Tea Gardens last week, when hundreds of people gathered outside the local police station to show their support for the ‘Force’.
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The rally was called with just 24 hours’ notice, following claims police stations at Tea Gardens, Karuah, Stroud and Dungog are facing closure.
‘’Thank you all for coming out at such short notice,” State MP Kate Washington told the crowd, “This is a real testament to how much this community values the local police and the local police station.”
The NSW Police Force is currently undergoing what’s been labelled,‘re-engineering’.
Clarence Town Police Station has already closed and Port Stephens Local Area Command is merging with Maitland.
“We want our police stations to remain open and we want them manned, in fact we need more police not less,” Kate Washington said.
Detective Chief Inspector Steve Laksa addressed the gathering and tried to reassure the crowd, “It will be business as usual in Tea Gardens.”
“You need local police working in the local area, they know the people they know the community.”
“There will be no change either to Karuah,” Inspector Laksa added.
But MidCoast Councillor Len Roberts questioned police resources and whether there would be adequate police cover over the upcoming Christmas holiday period.
Inspector Laksa admitted it would be a struggle to increase police numbers over the holiday season.
MidCoast Councillor Karen Hutchinson proposed moving Tea Gardens and Stroud into the Manning River/Great Lakes area, a suggestion that received a negative response from the crowd.
Ms Hutchinson’s fear is centred around response times and distance.
“This new local command will take Tea Gardens and Stroud police officers over to Maitland,” Councillor Hutchison told News Of The Area.
When asked whether she thought the Tea Gardens Police Station with its two officers Dave Coyle and Rob Wylie will remain as is, “They didn’t give a definite ‘Yes,’ Karen Hutchison added, “The buildings will be there but will they be manned?”
The NSW Police Association is also concerned about the Government’s intentions around satellite stations.
It’s worth noting that under the ‘Re-Engineering’ of the force there have been major changes in Sydney.
Fairfield and Cabramatta are merging as too are Chatswood and Harbourside, Eastern Suburbs and Rose Bay, Newtown and Marrickville, Burwood and Ashfield, Rosehill and Holroyd, Sutherland and Miranda, Campbelltown and Macquarie Fields, and Penrith and St Marys.
By Margie TIERNEY