18 th June 2023

The Community Advocacy Alliance (CAA) is a group of retired police officers and concerned citizens who are committed to making Victoria a safer place.

Recently, CAA obtained statistics from Victoria Police regarding calls made to 000 reporting erratic driving or suspected DUIs. Dr. Ray Shuey, a former Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner for Traffic and a member of CAA, submitted the application for the data, which cost $440.00 and covers the years 2020 to 2022.

The data shows that in 2022, concerned community members made over 51,000 calls 000 about problematic road users. However, in 88.61% of these cases, the only response was a “Keep A Look Out” (KALOF) broadcast, with no further investigation being undertaken. Only 7.18% of cases were recorded as “enquiries pending,” but there was no follow-up on the outcomes of these enquiries. Only about 1,000 calls resulted in any real action, such as an offence detected, an offender apprehended, or a stolen car located, resulting in a success rate of approximately 2.21%.

Clearly, the community wants to make our roads safer, but the Victoria Police response is woefully inadequate. This issue was first raised within Victoria Police in December 2011 and again in June 2013 but little has changed in the intervening decade.

At the time of the 2011 report examples were cited where the only response would have been to Keep A Look Out For, but for further intervention. No doubt every reader would be able to recount their own similar experiences:

  • 2 x vehicles seen “dragging” along Ferntree Gully Road Glen Waverley, registration number of both vehicles provided. No vehicle available to attend, disposition recorded as AAC (All Apparently Correct). Analysis of LEAP data indicated that the probable driver of one vehicle currently had 19 demerit points and had recent criminal convictions for serious offences. His Dossier stated, “The subject person is into high performance drag cars. Currently doing up a LH Torana for street drags.” Contacted caller who stated she was a nurse at the xxxx Hospital and constantly saw people in emergency who had been involved in vehicle collisions. Stated she got her friend, who was a passenger in the car at the time, to ring 000 as she feared for the safety of other road users. Both prepared to make statements and attend court if required.
  • Vehicle observed driving dangerously on the Monash Freeway towards the city, correct registration number provided. 251 directed KALOF. Contacted 251 and requested that a unit be directed to investigate. 251 replied in email a short time later that the registered owner and the reporting person had both been contacted. The registered owner stated that the vehicle was being driven by her granddaughter. A further check revealed the granddaughter has numerous prior convictions associated with drug use. The reporting person provided additional details of the extent of the dangerous driving and stated she was prepared to make a statement.
  • Vehicle seen at 1100hrs in Chapel Street, Prahran, several callers reported the vehicle had driven through 2 red lights and overtaken a tram on the incorrect side of the road. Correct registration number provided. Units directed by 251 to locate vehicle, unable to locate, no further action taken. Checked LEAP, noted on registration pre-enquirer that at 1330hrs on the same day a member from Melbourne Highway Patrol had checked the vehicle. Contacted member who stated that the vehicle had been involved in a serious collision and the driver was taken to hospital. Stated witnesses had seen the vehicle travelling along St Kilda Road and overtake a tram and then collide with a tram stop. Driver possibly drug impaired or psychiatric issues. He had not been aware of the earlier incidents as they were on a different radio channel.

Another tragic example was cited in the 2013 report which had played out with tragic consequences with the death of a 70-year-old female driver. A drug affected driver was convicted of culpable driving. In a 10 day period before the fatal collision a number of calls were made to 000 reporting the driver. In sentencing the Judge made comment that despite numerous calls to police no immediate action was taken. Any of the incidents reported to police could have amounted to Reckless Conduct Endangering Life or Serious Injury, in which case it would have been open to Victoria Police members to arrest and bail the offender with conditions, thus providing an immediate response within existing legislative processes.

As pointed out in the 2011 and 2013 reports clearly the consequences of failing to adequately address this issue are serious, including preventable serious road trauma caused by these drivers, further serious driving offences being committed, disqualified or unlicensed drivers remaining undetected, and damage to the reputation of Victoria Police. Additionally, failing to address this issue means missed opportunities to reduce the road toll, raise perceptions of safety, identify and target recidivist offenders, target individuals who pose a heightened risk to community safety and increase confidence in policing.

An effective solution would be to properly investigate these calls, which are often supported by mobile phone or dashcam footage and/or other witnesses. If a caller did not want to provide a statement due to a relatively remote possibility of having to give evidence in court, a letter could be sent to the registered owner advising that their vehicle had been observed being driven dangerously, and on this occasion, no further action would be taken, but the incident had been noted. This would alert the registered owner that others had seen what had occurred and prompt them to reflect on their driver behaviour or who they authorized to drive their car. There would be a provision for a registered owner to query the event, but the identity of the person providing the information would be protected.

CAA has recently had discussions with Victoria Police about how to progress an effective solution to this unacceptable situation. It will likely require additional resources, but it is worth it for a safer Victoria.

It is up to the Police command to manage and prioritize existing resources, work with communities, share data, and make a transparent, cogent case for additional resources. This follows the an evidence-based policing approach in keeping with a Prevention and Community Empowered (PACE) policing model. The public wants to make our roads safer, and it’s time for Victoria Police to take a more effective approach to investigating calls to 000 regarding erratic driving.