Inner West Independent

Inner West: Assault to Police surges during the pandemic

Assaults to police has grown 31.9 per cent between July 2019 and June 2021 in the Inner West. Photo: Aman Kapoor and Matilda Fay.

By DANIEL LO SURDO

Data from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR) has revealed the Inner West as the highest and only grower in police assaults across Greater Sydney. 

The Inner West recorded a 31.9 per cent surge in assaults to police officers from July 2019 to June 2021 and was the only Local Government Area (LGA) in Sydney not to record a trend that was either stable or with a population too small to compute. 

It also recorded the highest police assault rate per 100,000 people among its LGA neighbours from July 2020 to June 2021. 

“Thousands of police officers go out every day, putting themselves in harm’s way to protect the community,” Inner West Police Area Commander Superintendent Samuel Crisafulli said. 

“Violence against any emergency service worker is totally unacceptable, and we will continue to do all we can to put these offenders before the courts.” 

While recognising that the vast majority of people treat emergency services with “great respect”, Superintendent Crisafulli describes the last two years as “challenging” while working under COVID-19, which has strained relationships between law enforcement and the community. 

In March, a plainclothed police officer was treated for a concussion and swelling at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital after he attempted to detain an offender accused of breaching his bail on Station Street in Newtown. Two months earlier, a man from Moorebank was charged with assaulting, resisting or hindering a police officer in the execution of duty after the 20-year-old struck a female officer in the face and chest on Marrickville Road. 

“We need to be doing more to ensure that violence against women isn’t tolerated … and ensure that victims of sexual assault and violence get justice,” State Member for Balmain Jamie Parker said. 

“Violence of any kind isn’t tolerated in our community.” 

The recent surge has levelled the Inner West’s most recent annual cases with the nearby Canterbury-Bankstown Council, despite containing a population half the size of its southwest neighbours. 

The Inner West recorded its five-year peak in police assault cases from July 2016 to June 2017 (68) but has seen a significant rise in cases since the Federal and NSW Governments began taking advanced steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 in March last year. 

Incidents of Inner West police assault grew 62.9 per cent in 2020 from the previous year’s figure, while the rate per 100,000 people also saw similar increases from 2019. During this period, the Inner West’s neighbouring LGAs remained consistent with their pre-pandemic figures, despite Canterbury-Bankstown, Burwood, Canada Bay and Bayside being subjected to identical stay-at-home orders. 

Reports of domestic violence-related assault in the Inner West have remained stable throughout the past five years, while sexual assault, intimidation, stalking and harassment have all been on the rise. 

“The Inner West is a very safe place to live with relatively low crime rates compared to other LGAs across Sydney,” Mr Parker said. “Neighbours and friends tend to look out for one another.” 

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