Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison fears proposed police restructure will leave Central Hunter worse off

CONCERNED: Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison says a proposed police restructure would leave her community ‘short-changed’. Picture: Simone De PeakMAITLAND will “suffer” and is on track to being “short-changed” if a proposed police restructure does not boost the number of frontline officers, Jenny Aitchison has told Police Minister Troy Grant.

The Maitland Labor MP has ratcheted up her criticism of the state-wide police restructure, which, if approved, would see the biggest changes to Hunter local area commandsin more than two decades, with a flatter management structure and the creation of new “policing districts”.

The biggest changes to the Central Hunter Local Area Command – which is headquartered at Maitland station – would see the command’s superintendent shift to Raymond Terrace.

The communities of Cessnock and Kurri Kurri would also be shaved off the jurisdiction to become the responsibility of Hunter Valley police.

In strong criticism of the proposal, Ms Aitchison said Maitland was being “short-changed” underthe restructure,and questioned why the state government was yet to spell out the number of new police it would bring.

“I cannot stand by silent while our community is being short-changed and even more of our precious police resources are given back to the NSW treasury, while we here in Maitland suffer with increasing rates of domestic violence, car theft and other crimes with a police force that is struggling to keep on top of the task, regardless of their amazing efforts thus far,” she said in a letter to the Police Minister, seen by Fairfax Media.

“There is only so much capacity for people to work in this environment.”

‘Their greatest concern is that they would like to see additional police’ … Northern Region Commander Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell. Picture: Marina Neil

Ms Aitchison claimed that the command was understaffed by at least 20 officers and police were under “constant strain and pressure”.

“A major opportunity to provide more ‘boots on the ground’ does not actually result in any additional police,” the Labor MP said.

“In fact, across the two areas [Port Stephens and Maitland] there will actually be one less police officer.”

Ms Aitchison also feared the loss of local leadership with the removal of a Maitland-based superintendent, despite police assurances each station would retain a chief inspector.

“I have great reservations about whether or not the issues will be addressed, or swept under the carpet as they will be ‘out of sight out of mind’,” she said.

In a recentinterview with theHerald, Northern Region commander Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell acknowledged that Hunter MPs and mayors were opposed to aspects of the looming restructure.

“Their greatest concern is that they would like to see additional police and that’s a matter, really, for the government and the commissioner’soffice,” he said.

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