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Victoria Police plans to have officers patrolling the border with NSW for at least another month, as the police union warned of strains being placed on the force as members are diverted away from daily duties.
An additional 90 police officers were sent to the NSW-Victorian border on Monday, joining 260 police who were sent to the area at the end of June when Victoria first designated Greater Sydney as a red zone.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Michael Grainger providing an update on Monday. Credit:Justin McManus
The border closed at midnight on Sunday to all residents from NSW and the ACT.
Victoria is now on high alert after two Sydney removalists visited two homes and travelled through the state while infectious. Two people in a family of four who had returned from Sydney also tested positive on Monday. Victoria has issued a total of 8019 red-zone permits.
Police said on Monday six people have been fined in Victoria since June 25 for breaching coronavirus restrictions. One of the fines was issued to a man who had been in a red zone in NSW and was meant to be isolating at his Dandenong home. Instead, he was located by an alcohol and drug testing bus in Gippsland and fined $5542.
In the 24 hours to Monday morning, police conducted 2668 checks at the border to ensure those entering the state had the correct permit and 360 warnings were handed out.
Victoria Police stop cars entering The Causeway at a checkpoint between Albury and Wodonga on Sunday.Credit:Jason Robins
The police operation running along the border from Mildura to Mallacoota involves six pop-up traffic managements points that will move to different spots, as well as roving patrols and air wing support.
“We found [permanent checkpoints] negatively impacted those communities in the border bubbles and we believe the current model is far more efficient, it conjures up an image of police any time, anywhere doing their role which is absolutely the method we’d like to employ rather than the fixed border checkpoint,” acting Deputy Commissioner Michael Grainger said. “However, it still remains an option for government and the Department of Health to consider.”
“I guess my approach for anyone considering breaching the rules deliberately in travelling from other sites, red zones into Victoria, is don’t even try it.”
He said 350 officers working at the border were drawn from all departments and regions of Victoria and the plan was to keep officers there for at least another month.
Police have repeatedly assured the community that service delivery has not been impacted by the deployment of officers to the border, but acting Mr Grainger said they were constantly assessing the effect on day-to-day operations.
“It would be fair to say that picking up 350 employees from other areas of our operational activity could potentially have an impact – my advice is that it’s not at the minute. But we’re alert to that, and constantly monitoring,” he said.
The secretary of the police union, Wayne Gatt, said with more than 600 front-line police and Protective Services Officers working in hotel quarantine, almost 1000 officers were now away from their normal duties.
“Our members are accepting that we have a role to play, particularly in helping manage the borders, but this is a campaign event and it would be absolutely fair to say that … demand, after demand, after demand is taking a cumulative impact on our members,” he said.
He said the current model being used at the border, with roving patrols rather than fixed checkpoints, had been proved as more effective and also used fewer police.
“But we have to start thinking about pandemic planning in the context of what the next two to three years look like, not the next two to three days,” he said.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said on Monday the police’s border operation was “pretty sophisticated” and was detecting an increasing number of people trying to avoid coronavirus directions.
Mr Foley said that the government, through Victoria Police, had requested about 50 to 100 personnel from the Australian Defence Force, but it had been declined.
However, acting Mr Grainger said he didn’t understand this to be the case and believed there were enough resources currently at the border.
NSW reported a record daily total of 112 new cases on Monday, with at least 34 of those new cases moving around the community while infectious.
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