Eight protective service officers would be deployed at the Traralgon taxi and bus exchange under a Liberals-Nationals government plan to crack down on crime and anti-social behaviour.
The Coalition made the announcement in Traralgon this morning, committing to enlist PSOs seven days a week between 10am and 6pm, with extra troops on the ground during peak periods if it wins November's election.
However, the cost of the project has not been revealed and is similar to a plan announced by Member for Morwell Russell Northe in February.
Local traders, transport operators and shoppers have welcomed the proposal - many of whom who believe there has been a spike in anti-social behaviour near the Traralgon Plaza precinct.
.@ODonohueMLC says eight protective service officers will foot patrol the Traralgon taxi and bus exchange if the Coalition wins November’s state election. Sounds similar to a @RussellNortheMP policy proposal to the state government in Feb. Cost not revealed. #gippsnewspic.twitter.com/kh4Ipirrwn— Bryce Eishold (@BryceEishold) July 17, 2018
Under the proposal, eight new PSOs would be rolled out to patrol the area on foot, with extra officers to work Thursday to Saturday nights until 2am.
Two officers would patrol the areas in the off-peak times.
Opposition spokesman for Police and Community Safety Edward O'Donohue said his preference would be to select local people for the jobs, given their first-hand knowledge of the town.
"Our plan is to deploy these PSOs on a permanent basis, building on the success of the PSOs at Traralgon ... and other locations," Mr O'Donohue said.
Mr O'Donohue declined to reveal what the plan would cost taxpayers and said the Coalition would expand its PSO program and associated costs closer to the election.
The announcement follows reports by The Express that one police officer on average each week is attacked or injured in the line of duty.
"We will be making other community safety announcements across the Latrobe Valley and indeed across Gippsland as we lead up to the election ... That will be done in due course.
Traralgon Taxis network service provider manager Ken Krieger welcomed the announcement and said it would help address "daily" anti-social incidents experienced by the company's drivers.
In March, The Express reported taxi drivers were being threatened with weapons including knifes and experiencing criminal damage on their cars, including in separate incidents where the side doors of two taxis were "kicked in" by a group of thugs.
Cafe Evviva owner Joe Tripodi said customers had expressed their concerns about a lack of safety in Traralgon and believed businesses are feeling the flow-on effects of the anti-social behaviour.
Liberal-Nationals policy similar to Russel Northe’s plan
The Coalition's plan to tackle crime and reduce anti-social incidents in the town has been likened to Member for Morwell Russell's Northe's Latrobe Public Transport and Community Safety plan launched in February.
Mr Northe criticised the Coalition's Traralgon-focused approach and said there was a much broader problem across the Valley to deal with.
"The reality is that these issues are not just confined to Traralgon," Mr Northe said.
"Feedback that I have received from taxi drivers, bus drivers, V/Line staff and commuters is that anti-social behaviour, fare evasion and criminal activity occurs right across the Latrobe municipality including in Morwell, Moe and Churchill.
"I know for example Mid Valley Shopping Centre and the bus interchange in Commercial Road, Morwell have experienced a number of incidents over the past months."
Mr Northe called on the state government in February to fund a two-year pilot program, estimated at the time to be worth $2 million, which included eight PSOs and six authorised transport officers.