The NSW Police Association has backed Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison’s call for more police officers to walk the beat across the city.
Ms Aitchison was responding to a push by Maitland councillor Brian Burke to beef up security in The Levee when she suggested that police should be out walking the streets as a way to deter crime.
However, Ms Aitchison said there were not enough police officers to keep up with crime, let alone take this sort of proactive approach.
She said the government should appoint more police officers to the command, a belief that is shared by the police association.
NSW Police Association president Scott Weber said there was a shortage of police right across the Hunter and the state.
He said NSW had the lowest police to population ratio of any state in the country.
“We need an extra 247 police officers [across NSW] to cope with population growth,” he said.
Maitland local government area population grew by almost 10,000 people between the 2011 and 2016 Census.
However the number of police officers working across the Central Hunter command, which encompasses Cessnock, went down from 183 to 173 over the same period when the Census data was collected.
The number of authorised positions also dropped from 162 to 157 in that same period.
The most recent police numbers from May 2017 showed there were 157 authorised positions and 171 actual positions in the Central Hunter.
Mr Weber said crimes such as domestic violence and ice were a major problem in the Hunter. He said police should be taking a proactive approach to target them, but simply did not have the resources to do so.
“They should be out there and be visible, walking the streets,” he said.
“We want to stop the problem before it starts.
“But police are going from job to job to job. They’re not keeping up with the demand.
“They’re just keeping their heads above water.”
Mr Weber said the Central Hunter branch had been pushing for extra police for more than a year.
Ms Aitchison believes there needs to be 20 additional police officers appointed to the Central Hunter in order to make a difference.
“Our cops are doing the same job as those in Newcastle with about 80 less officers,” she said.