Calls to save Crime Stoppers service
POLICE Minister Mark Ryan says it's "business as usual" for crime fighting in Queensland despite the planned closure of the state's Crime Stoppers call centre.
Mr Ryan said that Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart had assured him that the Queensland Police Service has "sufficient resources" to pick up the additional 1000 calls a week.
But the LNP has called on the Labor Government to "act immediately to save this service", with Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington saying her party had promised an extra $1 million for Crime Stoppers at the last election.
"What some people might have forgotten is that the Crime Stoppers call centre was actually run by the police service until 2015," he said on ABC Radio Brisbane this morning after The Courier-Mail published the story.
"Every other state police service runs Crime Stoppers.
"The Commissioner has assured me we have sufficient resources."
Mr Ryan said the introduction of a charity to run the call centre in 2015 was a "trial" and the State Government had provided substantial financial backing.
But ultimately other states didn't "buy into" the idea and it was "just not viable" for the charity to continue running the centre without the buy-in from other states and the Federal Government.
"Unfortunately that did not happen leading to the Crime Stoppers Queensland independent board deciding the business model for the call centre was no longer viable," he said.
"It was a good experiment," Mr Ryan said.
"Other states didn't buy into it, and without that buy-in from state and federal government it's just not viable for them to run it.
"The Queensland Police Service has stepped up and said they'd run it."
Mr Ryan said the QPS had a long experience running call centre operations for Crime Stoppers and had previously done this for a 30-year period.
Crime Stoppers Queensland CEO Trevor O'Hara said today he was disappointed about the closure.
But he said the board had made its decision and unless there was further sustainable funding the centre would close.
"I've been here 15 years in total, it's been an amazing journey to get to this point in time," he said.
He said the contact centre had been instrumental in helping police solve crime.
"Every hour a person is arrested because of the Crime Stoppers program," he said.
LNP leader Deb Frecklington said she had promised an extra $1m for Crime Stoppers at the last election.
"The imminent closure of the Crime Stoppers call centre is a massive blow for Queensland's over-stretched police officers," she said.
"Many callers to Crime Stoppers only give information because they can do so anonymously.
"They call Crime Stoppers because they don't want to call the police and provide their details.
"Labor must act immediately to save this service and keep crime-fighting information flowing to our police officers."
Opposition police spokesman Trevor Watts said: "This news is also a savage blow to Crime Stoppers' 20 paid call-centre staff and its selfless team of 45 volunteers."
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts yesterday suggested people may be deterred from calling Crime Stoppers in future because they may not feel their call is anonymous if it is being answered by police.
Mr Ryan disagreed, however.
"If you spoke to most people in the street in Queensland, when they say they call Crime Stoppers I bet they say that they think their call is going straight to police in Queensland," Mr Ryan said.
"There are processes in place to ensure people remain anonymous."
Mr Ryan said while Queensland police were sufficiently resourced to pick up the calls, he would "welcome any additional funding from the Federal Government".
Andy Henderson, the chair board of directors, today issued a statement about the centre closing.
"On 11 May 2015 a new era of the Crime Stoppers program in Queensland was commenced with the independent contact centre opening at the state office," he said.
"As we approach the fourth anniversary of the contact centre delivery, the Board has made a decision to commence the closure process of the centre due to its financial viability.
"The contact centre operations will be transitioned back to the Queensland Police Service.
"We are privileged to have been working with and serving the people of Queensland for 29 years as a community program in partnership with the media, police and the public.
"Over 550 volunteers work tirelessly across the state to support local communities on our 32 volunteer area committees. Those volunteers are strongly supported by highly committed police representatives on the committees. It is business as usual for our volunteers across the state on these committees."
CRIME Stoppers will close its Queensland call centre by the end of the week due to a $250,000 budget shortfall.
The Queensland Police Service has confirmed it will absorb the calls, which number up to 1000 a week.
It is unclear if the QPS will need additional staffing to field the calls, but Police Minister Mark Ryan said there would be no interruption to the important service.
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts yesterday called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to keep the service running.
Mr Potts told The Courier-Mail the vital tip-off service would be forced to sack 22 paid workers and 45 volunteers if it could not come up with the $250,000.
He called on Mr Morrison to divert money kept by the Australian Federal Police from proceeds of crime to the service.
"They collect it every year from drug dealers, defrauders, drug importers and it's currently sitting at $25 million," Mr Potts said.
"All they would need to do would be to stump up $250,000 and they could save Crime Stoppers in Queensland.
"Without the Crime Stoppers call centre there will not be an essential service that takes place stopping crime and also solving crime.
"Mr Morrison is touring the state saying he supports Queensland and perhaps … one of the things he could do is to support this vital service."
Mr Potts said in 2018, Crime Stoppers collected about 20,000 pieces of information from 61,000 people.
As a result about 2000 people were apprehended, $6 million worth of drugs were seized and $310,000 worth of stolen property was recovered, he added.
Mr Ryan said the Crime Stoppers Board made the decision to stop running the call centre.
"There will be no interruption to these important calls being answered," he said.
"Police in every other state and territory answer Crime Stoppers calls, so there is nothing unusual about this practice."
The service lost funding in Adelaide a year ago and has not been refunded, despite community outcry.
"Thank you to each and every volunteer and all of those community members who have contacted Crime Stoppers over the years," Mr Ryan said.
"They have helped keep the community safe."