Community forms Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows group to combat crime

Community members Candace Guile, Cliff Atkinson and Allen Price have started Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows to help combat crime, and have been supported by Vasse MLA Libby Mettam and City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley.
Community members Candace Guile, Cliff Atkinson and Allen Price have started Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows to help combat crime, and have been supported by Vasse MLA Libby Mettam and City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley.

Broken Windows approach to crime

Busselton community members have taken a proactive approach to combat crime and antisocial behaviour in the community by joining forces to form Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows.

The local group has taken on the broken windows principal which was first proposed in the 1980's and heavily influenced police policy in the 1990's.

It was first applied in New York City, with the police department increasing its number of plain clothes officers on the streets to target antisocial behaviour and crime. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the approach resulted in a 40 per cent decrease in crime after four years.

WA's crime statistics show a 4 per cent increase in offences in Busselton and Dunsborough during for 2018-19. Stealing had the highest number of offences recorded at 780 incidents, making up 35 per cent of all offences committed in the region.

Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows founder Cliff Atkinson said the group's aim was to compile and collate their own independent statistics on incidents which occurred so they had current and concise data.

They are inviting business owners to join Broken Windows to keep the group alert of antisocial and criminal activity when it occurs, as well as reporting it to the police.

Mr Atkinson said the information could also be used to assist the appropriate authorities manage crime in the region .

He said the main focus from discussions with stakeholders, was how to better manage the constant crime and drug related incidents which were having an impact on families who want to live in a safe environment.

Community concern

Together with Busselton Freight Service owner Allen Price, Mr Atkinson met with Vasse MLA Libby Mettam and City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley to voice the community's concerns.

Mr Henley said a number of residents were concerned about the level of crime in the commercial and industrial areas.

He said Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows wanted to see a coordinated reporting mechanism to try and capture all the occurrences of lower level crime.

"It is so those statistics can be applied when we apply for funding for things such as CCTV and lighting," he said.

"Anecdotally, and certainly through social media, there is a lot of annoyance at that level of crime and also people's exacerbation at the legal and judicial system.

"People feel there does not seem to be any point in reporting crimes because there does not seem to be any follow up, and if it does go to prosecution there is a lack of ramifications.

"It is almost as if we have given up on people of a certain age who are committing these low level criminal activities.

"Unfortunately, there is an epidemic in our society, particularly in WA, of people who are proliferating this level of crime.

"It is not just the crime but the social outcome of people who are not very good parents and do not keep an eye on their kids allowing them to fall into the same lifestyle patterns, which is not good."

Mr Henley said generally Busselton was a safe place to live and work with a really good community.

Community action

The group's founder Mr Atkinson said the amount of incidents occurring appeared to be increasing, particularly break ins and burglaries.

"Frustration from stakeholders was evident, we kept hearing the same feedback, 'the system is broken,'" he said.

"Police are tirelessly fighting to have these criminals taken off the streets, but they often face a legal system that does not support them enough.

"Small business owners are questioning whether the City of Busselton is adequately resourced to handle the current level of crime and questioned if more funding should be allocated during peak season when petty crime incidents appear to rise considerably.

"We want to be safe and know that crime, whether major or petty, is being managed effectively.

"Busselton Dunsborough Broken Windows is for the community and only the community wins if we all work together.

"To move forward we need to know your story, the break ins, the broken windows or any reportable incidents that business owners in our region have.

"If you are a local business owner and want to join the group and be part of the crime discussion please contact us by emailing with your business name, address, mobile number and contact name."

Design out crime

Busselton Police officer in charge Senior Sergeant Manus Walsh said one of their current approaches to tackle antisocial behaviour and crime in the community was to encourage the 'design out of crime'.

Mr Walsh said because people were more focussed on the inside of their premises they tended to install internal surveillance, designing out crime was about having outside surveillance coupled with bright lighting.

"When we had the hit and run incident after The Drop Festival last June, we had an idea what car it was but a canvas of CCTV holdings identified a lack of coverage of the street" he said.

Senior Sergeant Walsh said while there weren't issues with businesses sharing information to warn others, designing out crime aided in preventing people from committing offences.

"If people think they will get picked up as they walked in, they are less likely to offend in the area" he said.

"It may push them to another place or it may stop them from offending."

"There is also evidence that shop A might have a camera outside which happens to catch the person who walks into shop B, there are lots of things business owners can do and the sharing of that information and evidence is vital."

Senior Sergeant Walsh said he hopes that information shared among the group would also be reported to police, as they were the investigating and prosecuting body.

"We've seen it before, we recently had a meeting with a business in town which had concerns with antisocial behaviour at Mitchell Park," he said.

"Our statistics on antisocial behaviour at the park from what had been reported to us was not reflective of the concern raised from the business.

"We encourage everyone to report incidents of crime and antisocial behaviour to us so that we can respond accordingly."

"If they are going to share information of offenders between the group that comes down to those involved in the group. Likewise, if shop owners refuse right of entry to people, they are entitled to do that."

Operation Heat Shield

Police minister Michelle Roberts said they were providing a stronger police presence on the streets of Busselton because of Operation Heat Shield and it had yielded results and proved to be a strong deterrent.

"Heat Shield enables police to target high volume crimes and high volume offenders," she said.

"Since the McGowan Government took office, an additional 33 officers have been allocated to the South West.

"There are more officers in regional WA, than under the Liberal-Nationals, plus we've established the Regional Enforcement Unit which has significant patrol hours in the South West.

"Later this year we are opening the Capel Police Station which will mean a stronger police presence to that town and surrounding South West communities."

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said it was great to see a proactive approach coming from the business community.

"Our local police do a fantastic job, and the priority must be for businesses to report crime when it happens," she said.

"However there is value in what I see as a neighbourhood watch community-driven model for the business community. "