Sometimes travelling by train at night you’ll see PSOs out on the platforms and station concourses. Sometimes they’re not in sight… they might be in their pod, or elsewhere.
Given the high-profile rollout of PSOs onto every station a signature policy of the 2010-2014 Ballieu Coalition government, carried over by the Andrews Labor government, you’d expect that the staffing would be reasonably consistent.
Turns out it’s not.
Macleay College journalism students lodged an FOI request to find out how many stations were without PSOs on duty during the last week in June.
It was surprisingly high. On the Saturday night, 18 stations had no officers on duty due to unplanned leave (in addition to 5 stations closed for level crossing works.
The train network is generally safe, and many passengers have said they feel safer having PSOs on stations. But it takes a lot of officers to do it, and comes at a huge cost.
You would think authorities would have enough officers to roster onto every station, especially during a period when numerous stations were closed for rail works. Hopefully when they fall short, they’re prioritising stations that don’t have other regular Metro staff on duty, as well as stations where crime is a concern.
The broader issue is whether providing two officers at every station, busy or quiet, every night – and only at night – is sustainable in the longer term.
The PSO rollout was completed in June 2016 with officers deployed at Alamein line stations Hartwell, Willison as well as South Kensington.
As noted in a fascinating piece in The Age last week by John Silvester, it’s an extremely expensive program, with unclear levels of success. Officers have limited powers, and are deployed in a one-size-fits-all approach that doesn’t really work.
As has long been highlighted, some stations have more crime than others, about half of all crime occurs before 6pm when officers come on duty, and many incidents occur not on stations but on the trains – where PSOs don’t patrol.
PSOs on every station (nearly) of course frees up Victoria Police officers and Authorised Officers to patrol both on the trains and elsewhere in the community.
But with an estimated cost of $80 million per year, it would make sense to target resources at the hotspot stations where crime is a real problem, not just at night but from first to last service – and have others PSOs patrolling around the network, not just stations but also on-board the trains.
- Macleay College Newsroom: Train security lapses uncovered in Melbourne