March 8, 2017
Crime in Murgon is a problem that stretches back more than a century, Senior Sergeant Lance Guteridge told the Murgon Business and Development Association’s most recent meeting.
But claims the town was facing a crime wave might be exaggerated – domestic violence was the biggest issue that Murgon police have to deal with, followed by juvenile car thefts and break-ins.
Snr Sgt Guteridge said he had seen police reports from 1910 saying intoxication was a problem in Murgon, and that hadn’t changed very much in the past 100 years.
“We have two parts to our community,” Snr Sgt Guteridge told the meeting.
“A farming community with a strong work ethic, and a dysfunctional town community where some people suffer deeply embedded issues with alcohol.”
But statistics showed the level of crime in Murgon was not all that different from other South Burnett towns.
Turning to court appearances, Snr Sgt Guteridge said the courts treated offenders differently to the way they once did, and no longer believe incarceration was always the answer.
“Modern society has eroded the rights of the police and parents,” he said.
“But the Criminal Code still allows the disciplining of disruptive children.”
Snr Sgt Guteridge said police would always request bail conditions at court if an offender was not remanded in custody.
Conditions could restrict movement during certain hours of the day/night, and if they were not met, bail would be revoked. That would mean another Court appearance which would likely result in custody in those circumstances.
But first offenders generally received a caution, and in 85 per cent of cases never repeated an offence.
Youth Justice Conferencing – where the offender was brought face-to-face with the victim – had also proven effective in reducing crime.
However, detention was generally a last resort because there was evidence it didn’t change long-term behaviors.
Snr Sgt Guteridge said the best thing he could advise residents concerned about crime to do was lock their doors and hide their car keys.
The reason for hiding keys was that modern cars are harder to steal, so some car thieves were now breaking into homes looking for keys so they could take a vehicle.
Snr Sgt Guteridge said all residents had a right to defend themselves and their property with reasonable force. He noted that rural areas were not being targeted; most of Murgon’s crime was restricted to the town.
He said Murgon has three police officers on duty at night – one at the watchhouse and the other two in a patrol car, which has to service both Murgon and Cherbourg after 10:00pm.
He said residents who needed police help at night should call 000 instead of the station number.
“This will divert your call straight to the car, and if they are not on anything more serious they can attend quickly,” Snr Sgt Guteridge said.
Speaking more broadly, Snr Sgt Guteridge advised residents concerned about crime to secure all their possessions and report anything that didn’t look normal – especially whistling at night, which was used as a form of communication by some thieves.
Good lighting was also a great deterrent.
They could also join Murgon’s Neighbourhood Watch, which meets every two months at Murgon’s police station, for regular updates on local crime issues.