By Michael Giles

WONTHAGGI and Leongatha police should be congratulated for their efforts in cleaning up a number of serious drug-related incidents in the area over the past few weeks.
In Wonthaggi at the weekend, a combination of dumb crooks and smart police work led to the apprehension of a dangerous fugitive who had earlier been involved in firing shots into an occupied shed.
Having drawn attention to themselves by firing a shotgun at a domestic property in White Road (Bass Highway), why the alleged offenders didn’t simply leave the town is hard to understand.
But it was a seriously worrying situation for those directly affected residents to have an armed offender loose in the town. It’s clear that drug trafficking is involved.
In Leongatha a combination of more good police work and community support, together with a liberal helping of good luck, has resulted in a crackdown on cannabis cultivation in the area.
But you’ve got to wonder if police actually have the numbers to do the job properly of keeping the community safe, in the face of an alarming increase in drug-related crime, especially ice, and family violence, while also having to adjust to the major policy shift of two-up policing.
This change, while supported by the community, has had a dramatic effect on the number issues police can respond to in a timely manner in country areas, and also the amount of coverage they can give to traffic management.
We certainly hope this is not a factor in the rising road toll this year.
The fact is, though, that the rise in drug related crime right across regional areas is truly alarming.
At the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court last week, for example, we heard details of how a local associate of a nasty, drug trafficker from Melbourne had been so seriously threatened, and his family threatened, by this hood that he was unwilling to reveal the name of the key offender in a ‘coward punch’ attack in Wonthaggi back in October last year.
The man was prepared to go to jail rather than cooperate with police.
Car thefts, an increase in firearm offences, violence at hospitals, and more family violence; it seems drugs and to a continuing degree, alcohol abuse, is having a profound impact.
It is time the government revealed they have a plan for more police numbers in rural and regional areas, and provided details with which to reassure a very worried community.

Please explain, Cr Hill
Also of concern are reports that Cr Don Hill has allegedly ripped off the South Gippsland ratepayers to the tune of $1047 for his own electioneering purposes. No doubt he’ll say the printing and distribution of a pamphlet was a genuine attempt to keep the community informed but this close to a once-in-four-year election, we have our concerns.
Let it be a warning to other councillors, though, that their actions over the next five months will be closely scrutinised.