Andrew Eppelstun ...
Andrew Eppelstun ... "the whole northern region is bleeding".

WE ARE BLEEDING

By SAMANTHA HEALY

POLICE officers' lives are being put at risk because they are used as "political footballs", a police association spokesman said yesterday.

With police numbers a hot potato in the lead-up to the March 24 state election, Tweed Heads Police Association (THPA) spokesman Andrew Eppelstun said the Tweed simply did not have enough law enforcers.

"We are bleeding .... the whole northern region is bleeding," Mr Eppelstun said. "There is a feeling NSW Police Force stands for Newcastle, Sydney, Wollongong Police Force.

"There is a fear we are going to get injured because we just don't have the numbers. We are being forgotten by the hierarchy."

With resources pushed to breaking point, Mr Eppelstun said Tweed/Byron Local Area Command faced unique problems that were not being considered when allocating officers and resources.

Last month the Tweed/Byron Local Area Command had 186 officers on the books, however 18 were on long-term sick leave and a further 14 on restricted duties.

Mr Eppelstun said these numbers were not enough.

"The hierarchy seems to forget that the Gold Coast ? the sixth- largest city in Australia ? is just next door," he said. "There is no rabbit-proof fence. Border issues make up a big chunk of what we do.

"We are struggling to provide the services the community deserves be-cause we don't have the resources."

National Party candidate Geoff Provest said the Tweed had the worst police numbers on the North Coast.

"Across NSW there is one officer for every 545 residents, in the Northern Region there is one officer for every 699 residents, but on the Tweed there is just one police officer for every 766 residents," Mr Provest said.

Tweed MP Neville New-ell weighed into the debate, saying the allocation of police was a departmental decision, with senior police identifying priority areas.

"Tweed/Byron LAC has been identified as a priority in the deployment of additional officers, to crack down harder on street crime and anti-social behaviour," Mr Newell said. "This means extra police will be deployed to this command."

Tweed/Byron LAC Superintendent Michael Kenny said he understood the concerns of the THPA and encouraged them to discuss their issues with him.



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