Tattletale Victorians push police to limit during lockdown
An enormous number of Victorians have dobbed in people and businesses for breaching coronavirus restrictions.
The Herald Sun can reveal a record 173, 000 reports were made to the Police Assistance Line during the peak of the virus in March and April.
The calls, mostly COVID-19 related, resulted in 70,000 recorded breaches.
Mass gatherings, including wild parties and public gatherings, were the most commonly reported breach.
Illegally operating business and people, including returned travellers, failing to self-isolate were also dobbed in record numbers.
The breaches don't include reports of people failing to socially distance.
So far more than $8 million worth of fines have been dished out during the pandemic.
Inspector Steve Towers said reports peaked over Easter where they received up to 11,500 calls a day.
"That really pushed us to our limits," Insp Towers said.
"For some reason over Easter a lot of people decided to breach the rules and got some expensive tickets but by the end of Easter a lot of people got it."
At one point the demand became so great members of Australian Defence Force were brought in to help take calls.
Inspector Towers conceded several thousand calls went unanswered at this time due to capacity issues.
"We were never set up to take 11, 500 calls a day. No call centre would be able to cope with that," he said.
There were 102, 034 calls in April and 70, 983 in March.
Inspector Towers said many calls were driven by fear of the virus and that they have now dropped off significantly.
At the peak of the pandemic a massive amount of reports were made by people concerned for their families' health due to parties or gatherings in their neighbourhood, he said.
Police are now using greater discretion when issuing fines, targeting only the most blatant or deliberate breaches, and will review penalties deemed unfair.
Inspector Tower said the assistance line played a crucial role in helping frontline police enforce breaches and focus on more serious crime during the crisis.
"It let the community know we are serious and needed to book people," he said.
PAL was launched in July 2019 to take reports of non-urgent crime to free up police.
Before the pandemic it received around 2500 calls a day mostly related to car theft, theft from car, theft and lost property.
Non-urgent crimes or COVID-19 breaches can be reported to the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or via an online report at www.police.vic.gov.au/palolr.
If you are in danger, call triple-0.
CROOKS ON THE RUN BUT HARDER TO HIDE
Policing during the coronavirus pandemic has been "like going back to the 1980s" for cops on the beat in the state's busy southern metro region.
Officers have swooped and arrested 137 people during night shifts in the Birds of Prey operation targeting vehicle crime and Operation Tidal targeting youth crime in the month beginning March 25.
Southern Metro Region Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill said the rate of arrests during the two targeted operations had been "significant" and the policing environment had changed completely in a matter of months.
"Local police are telling me it is a lot easier to catch a crook, offenders can be readily identified when doing the wrong thing," he said.
"Policing during the pandemic has been like going back to the 1980s, when after dark the majority of people were at home in bed and anyone out at night were usually up to no good.
"The lack of pedestrians and other vehicles out and about has paid dividends for police - it has assisted us greatly in identifying criminals operating after dark. The phrase: 'You can run but you can't hide' has never been more prevalent in recent times."
Assistant Commissioner Hill said an unintended consequence of rostering additional police on at night during the pandemic to patrol vulnerable shops and restaurants meant stolen cars - often driving erratically - were readily identified.
Originally published as Tattletale Victorians push police to the limit during lockdown