POLICE numbers will be stretched to the limit at popular south-west coastal venues for busy New Year celebrations.
The Standard understands operating numbers across the Warrnambool-Southern Grampians region could be as much as 30 below official staff lists because of members off on maternity leave, WorkCover, long service, sick leave and other factors.
Police resources across the south-west will be stretched on New Year’s eve
There is minimal capacity within operational budgets to bring in support from other regions and metropolitan special units.
However, some Colac officers will be assigned to help out at Lorne and Apollo Bay.
Populations in south-west coastal venues have swollen by at least 30,000 for the summer holiday period and numbers are expected to expand even further this evening.
Police will step up patrols using available local officers and vehicles, relying on neigbouring stations to assist in peak demand.
Police Association secretary Ron Iddles said staff shortages were common across regional areas and he was pressing the new state government for additional numbers to handle population growth.
“We’ve had members ringing us about low resources,” Mr Iddles said. “Our officers do their best with limited resources and we appreciate what they do.”
Port Fairy, which has an estimated 10,000 visitors, will rely on the Warrnambool station to provide back-up patrols.
Sergeant Chris Moloney of Warrnambool said resources were also noticeably tighter last summer compared with previous years where special operational units from Melbourne could be assigned to regional areas.
“All available members will be on deck for extra patrols in the CBD and foreshore,” Sergeant Moloney said.
“We’ll have uniform and plain-clothes units and a brawler van, plus we’ll be working with local council laws officers particularly around the Lake Pertobe barbecue areas.”
Warrnambool’s main fore-shore caravan parks will operate a wristband entry system on New Year’s Eve to weed out intruders. It will be the first New Year where the city’s CBD entertainment precinct will be under the watch of surveillance cameras linked to the police station.
In Portland — the only city in Victoria where outdoor alcohol consumption in the CBD is allowed — police will closely monitor the popular entertainment precinct between hotels and foreshore.
“There’s a $738 fine for being drunk and disorderly and $590 for being drunk in a public place,” Acting Sergeant Darren Hanegraaf said.
“Roads will be blocked off in Bentinck Street between the pubs and grassed area to make it a no-vehicle area.”
Warrnambool-based traffic management officer Sergeant Cameron Ross warned drivers not to flout the law.
“There will be testing for drug and alcohol as well as speed and distractions,” he said.
n Three international visitors injured when their vehicle hit a truck on the Great Ocean Road at Nullawarre on Christmas Day are in a stable condition in hospital.
A Macarthur man, who received head, rib and pelvic injuries after colliding with a milk tanker on the Port Fairy-Hamilton Road last Wednesday is also in a stable condition.
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