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Stop the violence: police chief
The West Australian

One of the most famous Christmas songs of all-time is not a carol at all but a conscience-pricking question posed by John Lennon - So this is Christmas and what have you done?

As the Christmas season draws to a close it is worth reflecting on "what we have done?" as we analyse the most significant challenges faced over the period.

Nationally, 48 people have been killed on our roads.

In WA, eight people lost their lives but we rank as the State with the third most of deaths after NSW and Victoria.

Our track record on Christmas fatalities is nothing to be proud of and the total number of people killed on WA roads in 2012 was higher than the previous year.

The geographical spread of our fatal and serious traffic crashes remains unsurprising to police and, once more, crashes in regional WA account for close to 60 per cent of all those seriously injured or killed.

Statistics for 2012 show that if you are driving in the Peel region or the South West you are at the greatest risk of being in a serious crash.

Our Christmas traffic safety record is not all doom and gloom, however, and there are signs that at least some messages are beginning to sink in. Serious injuries are 50 per cent down on last year's Christmas holiday period and are 20 per cent down for the total year when compared with 2011.

Good news also from the booze bus deployment, where it seems the percentage of people detected driving over the limit is decreasing.

The booze bus I attended on Christmas Eve had been operating for about four hours, tested more than 2000 drivers and had not detected one person in excess of the limit before I left.

Similarly, while working on the booze bus line twice on the Causeway over that period it became clear that very small numbers of people were detected over the limit and, in most cases, their readings were at the lower end of the scale.

What was particularly interesting was the noticeably small number of young drivers behind the wheel of vehicles being stopped later at night and a significant number of vehicles with young passengers in the back. There are indications, at least, that the drink-driving message is getting through.

Christmas for police, however, has not been all about traffic enforcement and there is clearly a darker and more sinister underbelly developing in street level crime.

Between Christmas Day and Thursday there were at least 12 serious and high-profile attacks, some involving multiple victims. There are several disturbing elements to these offences.

Firstly, many of the victims are senior citizens (one in her 80s) and have been set upon with no restraint. Secondly, in some instances the offenders have urged their accomplices to continue to strike the victims even when there was nothing to steal.

Thirdly, these crimes have typically been committed by gangs of youths who hunt in packs and are targeting the more vulnerable members of our community. While the number of street-level assaults is increasing marginally, they are certainly becoming more violent.

Targeting these offences can be difficult because of the unpredictability of where they may occur.

For example, a hotel patron was killed after an alleged assault at Denham on the same night police were locking down Mandurah's entertainment precinct.

There are, however, some patterns emerging in recent robberies south of the river. The immediate police response is yet another specialised task force focusing on the suburbs where the problem seems most prolific, however, these task forces have to be deployed in addition to normal police tasking.

If we do not address the root causes of these youth issues, the long-term effectiveness of any police strategy is questionable.

If the indifference of responsible adults for the welfare of their own children caught in our recent responses to "out-of-control gatherings" is anything to go by, we are in for a world of hurt in 2013.

Many simply do not or cannot care and the problem overflows into the wider community.

And so to John Lennon for the final word . . . (and) a happy New Year . . . Let's hope it's a good one, without any fear.