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Community leaders talk crime at Mandurah business forum 

Superintendent John Leembruggen, Member for Mandurah and minister for arts and culture David Templeman, Top Floor Nightclub co-owner Mandi Gemmell and Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams. Photo: Supplied.

Mandurah’s top cop has told business leaders hooning, organised crime, anti-social behaviour and retail theft remained ongoing challenges as he revealed officers would be amping up their presences over summer.

Among community concerns expressed at a business forum on Friday, Mandurah Police Districts Superintendent John Leembruggen revealed almost five vehicles were impounded a week. 

Mandurah police have seized 738 vehicles for serious traffic-related offences since the start of the year. Of those, 229 were hooning related, involving 177 cars and 52 unregistered motorbikes. 

“It’s totally unacceptable behaviour,” superintendent Leembruggen said. 

“Not only is it an issue as [a risk for] the public themselves but also for the person that’s doing the burnouts.

 “It becomes high risk and we see people being killed quite regularly.”

Also addressing the forum, Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams said reducing crime in the region was more than putting extra officers on the beat. 

Mr Williams said five Peel suburbs were home to 75 per cent of all Mandurah’s crimes. While the mayor didn’t specify which suburbs, he highlighted the city’s lower socioeconomic issues and homelessness as a key driver of criminal activity. 

While mayor Williams attributed Mandurah’s lower-level crime issues to unemployment and rapid population growth, he failed to highlight concerns around anti-social behaviour and criminal activity in the city’s nightlife precinct, only briefly touching base on the topic during question time.

It comes after Skeer Media in September revealed desperate pleas by local business owners to end the violent and disturbing behaviour near the city’s sole nightclub, along Smart Street Mall.

Guest speaker, Top Floor Nightclub co-owner and Mandurah Liquor Accord member Mandi Gemmell was quick to play down anti-social behaviour and instead, took aim at media reporting.

“The problems are not going away. Let’s be honest,” Mrs Gemmell said.

“I can proudly announce that incidents within the venue have reduced to almost nil. That statistic may shock some of you, considering media representation and rumour. However, it is true.

“Recent local news reports by unofficial channels who existed by highlighting the negative effects of the minority, rehashing years old incidents, and reporting them out of context. Other reason that gossip and uneducated discussion prevail.”

A Skeer News special investigation explained how violent behaviour in the CBD documented five years ago was still an ongoing problem today, referring to incidents old and new and exposing never seen before vision.

Many community members have since reached out to Skeer News, including a former nightclub employee, Mandurah night chaplains’ volunteer and business owners expressing their concerns. 

Superintendent Leembruggen said police were monitoring organised crime across the Mandurah district even though pandemic lockdowns impacted their illegal operations and criminal establishments. 

“It’s something that affects us all,” he said.

“We know where they live, we know where they operate from, we know they have clubhouses in the area and of course, we are going to be working very hard, particularly while keeping the community safe, to keep a close eye on their activity.” 

Superintendent Leembruggen said considering the size of Mandurah’s police district, as it stretches from Lake Clifton to Kwinana, overall crime was down based on the five-year average.

“We are three times the size of Canberra, and for those who remember what it’s like to go to Bali, we’re about half the size of the island,” he said. 

“Across the Mandurah sub-district, your burglaries are down about seven per cent, and your retail theft is down about four. 

“The crime figures are somewhat skewed, that is because of COVID being the main influence in that.” 

The superintendent pointed out theft was being made all too easy with residents not taking action to reduce opportunity. He also said retail theft statistics would be underrepresented as many of those offences go unreported. 

“We still get people who don’t lock up their houses. We get people who leave their garage doors open,” he said. 

Although crime statistics may be skewed due to lockdowns and COVID-19, criminologists saw a crime reduction worldwide before the pandemic. 

The superintendent said his team would be taking a community-led policing approach to tackle crime and theft this summer, including targeted patrols.  

“We’re going to be highly visible,” he said. 

“I’ve instructed my staff when they’re walking through shopping centres, don’t walk with your head down, talk to the shop owners. If you want a cup of coffee, don’t come back to the station. 

“I want you sitting at the coffee shop, I want you sitting at the front, I want you talking to people because it’s very important. 

“There isn’t a homeless person or someone sleeping rough in this area that we haven’t spoken to on a daily basis that we’ve seen them. 

“We walk down, we talk to people

“The days of policing have changed where we have to go back to the office all the time.

“We are working very much off our phones.” 

Other key speakers included member for Mandurah and minister for arts and culture David Templeman, who emphasised the importance of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and how reactivating the city centre was vital for the community. 

Tex Reeks

Texas (Tex) Reeks is a video journalist and national award-winning news photographer. Reeks' dedication and commitment to local news media and telling stories has seen him build an extensive portfolio in Western Australia's news industry from a young age. Writing online stories and covering news events for Perth's mainstream media networks, Reeks, has covered and broken some of WA's biggest breaking news stories including shark attacks, police manhunts, plane crashes, major crime investigations, and major political incidents. Reeks' interest and knowledge in criminology and policing results in his focus on crime and court stories.
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