Victoria’s police force are not resourced for the hard lockdown of the public housing towers in Australia’s southern city of Melbourne to continue more than five days, says an association chief.
Around 500 police officers have been stationed at nine public housing estates in the city’s suburbs of Flemington, Kensington, and North Melbourne since the evening of July 4. They are enforcing a hard lockdown of the towers’ residents in an attempt, unprecedented for Australia, to stop the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.
The order was made by Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews on July 4 after 108 new cases of the CCP virus were registered, the biggest jump since March 28.
Swarms of police were deployed with orders to form a perimeter around each of the nine public housing buildings.
There were reports that police were stationed on every storey of the building, but Victoria Police Association CEO Wayne Gatt said this did not happen.
“Well that’s not the case, that’s not occurring at this point in time, we simply wouldn’t have the resources to do that at this point in time,” Gatt said to 3AW radio on July 6.
Police officers on shift this morning told Gatt that they need double the amount people to fulfill all their duties.
“They barely got the resources they need to secure the outside of the premises properly,” he said.
Officers are being called in from other police stations around the state, putting a strain on resources.
“We’ve been it with one emergency after another, we are four months into a pandemic and this one deployment is really stretching us, we need to think smart about this, we need to keep a handle on crime our day to day business,” Gatt said.
“To do everything that’s being asked of them is a huge resources requirement, and if this goes on for more than five days and or extends to other towers or other places in Victoria, we are going to be significantly stretched for resources.”
The Victorian government announced restrictions on two additional postcodes—3031 and 3051—an extension on the original ten hot zones identified at the end of last month.
Australian Defence Force Support
Gatt is eager to receive whatever support the government can spare to assist the police. He said he would accept and welcome skilled support from the Australian Defence Forces (ADF).
“We say that if there is support there it should be welcome in with open arms, only the community suffers if we continue to say no,” Gatt said.
In a press conference on July 6, Andrews stated that he has never turned down ADF support, and has always received support from the Commonwealth whenever he asked.
He refuted that police chiefs have requested ADF personnel to work alongside Victoria’s enforcement officers.
“That’s not the position which has been put to me, any requests which have been put to me would get the seriousness they deserve,” he said.
Andrews said ADF personnel cannot take on all responsibilities of Victorian police.
“A member of the ADF is not a member of Victoria law enforcement, and do not as a function of Victoria law have the ability to do the work police and PCO’s do,” Andrews said.
A record number of CCP virus cases have been registered in Victoria, 127 cases, and one death as of 4 p.m. on July 6. This has prompted the decision to close the border between Victoria and New South Wales.