The Mayor of Barkly Regional Council in the Northern Territory has called for police to be permanently based in the remote town of Alpurrurulam following the withdrawal of full-time officers earlier this year.
Steve Edgington said Alpurrurulam residents have told him that within three weeks of the withdrawal of a permanent police presence, there had been an increase in anti-social behaviour and drink driving-related incidents in the community.
Mr Edgington is also Mayor of Tennant Creek, where emergency alcohol bans and other measures were introduced after the alleged rape of a two-year-old girl.
Mr Edgington said Alpurrurulam also had significant problems.
“Residents expressed their concerns about high levels of domestic violence and the amount of alcohol being brought into the community and fear this will only increase if there is not a permanent police presence,” he said.
“Local people said it is common knowledge that people across the region, including Tennant Creek, use the Sandover Highway to travel to Queensland to buy alcohol due to the Banned Drinker Register and police being positioned outside licensed premises in the Northern Territory.”
Mr Edgington said he had written to the NT Government about Alpurrurulam, where the closest police station is 170km away at Avon Downs.
He said Chief Minister Michael Gunner told him this month Alpurrurulam has a Commonwealth-funded police placement for two positions staffed on a temporary basis.
It said the community, located about 600km east of Tennant Creek, was patrolled by police weekly or fortnightly with staff staying overnight for each visit.
But Mr Edgington said residents were not happy with the response and at an Alpurrurulam Local Authority meeting last week, they made another call for police officers to be permanently based in the community.
“Residents tell me that the gate to the police station is often padlocked,” he said. “Many locals have no choice but to use the public pay phone when they make a call as there is no mobile phone coverage.
“People who have reported matters to the police do not hear back from the police call centre in Darwin about what’s going on or if an officer is even going to the community.
“This really is not good enough and the residents deserve better. Having a permanent police presence was working and now that lack of a presence is having a detrimental effect.”
Mayor Edgington said it is the role of council to advocate for the people of the Barkly region and that he would actively pursue the matter until there was a solution that benefited the community.