A Facebook group with more than one thousand members is being used by Melburnians to detect where police checkpoints are as the city’s five million residents are prevented from leaving for six weeks.
Named ‘Melbourne checkpoint locations’, the public group features multiple posts from members featuring photos and locations of police checkpoints dotted across Melbourne’s outer suburbs.
The group’s description states “freedom is everything” and says the group is dedicated to finding checkpoints preventing exit and entry to “our home towns”.
There are currently 1,300 people in the group.
It appears the group was initially created for the 10 coronavirus hotspot postcodes which were under restrictions from last week, however the group’s name has been changed to include all of Melbourne, with 31 local government areas now all under the same stay-at-home instruction.
While residents are allowed to travel to other suburbs within Melbourne for either work or education, giving or receiving care, essential shopping and exercise, travel outside of the 31 LGAs as well as the Mitchell Shire is prohibited unless residents can prove they warrant an exemption.
Recent posts from users indicate checkpoints near Beveridge, in Meadow Heights and on Geelong Road.
A Victoria Police spokesperson told Yahoo News Australia it was aware of several Facebook groups informing users of checkpoint locations and urged people to avoid from posting in them.
“While police do not have the ability to shutdown these pages, what the community needs to remember is that the sole purpose of the checkpoints is to reduce the spread of coronavirus,” they said.
The spokesperson said police vehicles across the state will also be doing random checks to ensure people are following the rules.
“Police across the state will be intercepting vehicles at random to ensure they are complying with the stage 3 restrictions,” they said.
“These mobile vehicle patrols will utilise Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to scan car registration details and identify the residential addresses of those license holders.
“We are doing all we can to keep the community safe and ask everyone to play their part by not posting roving or stationary checkpoint locations on these pages.”
The group’s administrator, who also shared a post in the group saying residents don’t need to answer their door to health care workers, has been contacted however has not responded to questions submitted via Facebook.
Enhanced police presence ready to issue fines
On Wednesday, Premier Daniel Andrews said a further 700 police officers were being deployed to ensure residents who don’t have justifiable reasons aren’t leaving the city.
And while Police Commissioner Shane Patton said there wouldn’t be an “absolute ring of steel” around metropolitan Melbourne, there would be a “significant police presence” on the main arterial roads on the border of the locked-down area.
"If you don't have a reason to leave, you will be turned back around,” he said.
Commissioner Patton said Victoria is “way past a discretionary aspect” having been in similar restrictions during the first wave of cases, and said Victoria Police would not hesitate in handing out infringement notices of $1652.
Mr Andrews stressed Melbourne must have a "hard border" to ensure the rest of Victoria was shielded from "significant community transmission".
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