Night Patrol
Night Patrol

A night with QLD police: Cops swarm suburb in huge operation

As night descended across Townsville, crews of police geared up to hit the streets for a strategic operation to target whatever came their way.

The Townsville Bulletin was given exclusive access to the latest branch of Operation Lockdown, where resources saturate an area for several hours in hope of preventive action or arrests.

Officers, including fresh recruits, had already rushed off to their designated areas by 10.30pm on Wednesday night as the cold settled in across Stuart.

Despite their dedication, the calls were limited with Stuart Division officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Gavin Oates blaming the overnight cold snap for keeping the offenders at bay.

This reality was in stark contrast to a crime wave that gripped the city earlier this year, with more than 600 property offences recorded in February.

Since COVID-19, the decline of property crime has been hard to ignore with rates dwindling down to a fraction of what it once was.

The operation consisted of 30 officers spread across the Stuart Division in 15 police vehicles.

Western Patrol Group Inspector Roger Whyte during Operation Lockdown. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Western Patrol Group Inspector Roger Whyte during Operation Lockdown. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Communications were relayed back to a police hub where Snr-Sgt Oates was running the show, shadowed by Western Patrol Group Inspector Roger Whyte.

Similar operations have nabbed a significant number of offenders at Heatley and Kirwan with plans to roll out more operations in future.

The hub was hard to miss; parked strategically beside a busy road near the Townsville Cricket Ground.

Scanners buzzed and the team worked away on their computers as murmurs of messages filtered through.

"Each crews is given a designated area and we will be tasked out if assistance is needed," Snr-Sgt Oates said.

One of the district's four dog squads was nearby and greeted a motorist with a menacing bark as its cage rattled and shook the police wagon.

Luckily, it wasn't needed.

The first call to service meant a trip to the other side of town where the scanner buzzed that a teenager was armed with a knife outside her home.

The girl, 17, was lying on the ground in a foetal position when the fourth and final emergency crew arrived.

Paramedics and police were forced to lift her off the ground and onto a stretcher.

She had bandages over her arms and this wasn't the first time police had been called to her Kelso home.

"She's cut herself," Insp Whyte said.

During COVID-19, depression and anxiety has increased as a result of isolation with health experts growing increasingly concerned about mental health in young people.

The scanner stayed quiet as the police car drove around different areas of the city but never stopping or being called to another job.

The streets were eerily quiet with minimal cars on highways and only a handful of pedestrians walking the main drag.

"It's hit and miss," Insp Whyte said of the nightly crime.

He said property crime fluctuates when offenders are released from detention, during different weather patterns and just by sheer coincidence.

Originally published as A night with police: Cops swarm suburb in huge operation