A GROUP of rowdy youths, hecklers, and opportune protesters illustrated perfectly why Frankston’s new team of protective services officers were welcome news for other commuters.
The vocal bystanders made the most of having television news crews and local media gathered on Frankston railway station platform for the announcement that PSOs would begin patrolling the station and surrounds from today.
This brings the total number of PSOs working on 13 train stations across Melbourne to 116.
Victoria Police has set a target to recruit 940 PSOs by November 2014.
Where the officers are deployed is based on a number of factors such as how busy the train station is and the amount of reported crime and antisocial behaviour.
Three of the new officers were at the launch, along with local transit safety division’s Senior Sergeant Ian Shepherd, Frankston’s Acting Senior Sergeant Andrew Whitehead, Carrum MP Donna Bauer and Frankston MP Geoff Shaw.
The police presence came in handy as hecklers who got a little too close to the news conference were quietly moved away, and one man was relieved of alcohol he was carrying in a water bottle.
However, they arrived too late to stop four youths who were determined to be noticed by hanging out of the train window, forcing the train to stop its departure until they pulled themselves back in.
Acting Senior Sergeant Andrew Whitehead said the PSOs would allow for more effective policing in the area.
‘‘I expect that this will allow us to free up resources and have more flexibility,’’ he said.
Asked if he was disappointed that Frankston was not among the first stations to get PSOs as promised, Mr Shaw said it was an indication that the station was not considered as high a risk as others.
‘‘The media needs to get on board and start saying how good Frankston is instead of putting it down. We have the largest allocation of police in the state, our crime rate is down, we have just won the best and cleanest beach award for the second time, and South East Water is coming to town,’’ he said.
When media attention turned to Mr Shaw’s alleged misuse of taxpayer funds, the embattled MP held his ground and refused to respond.
PSOs will be on duty every night from 6pm until last train.
The three new officers, Mandeep Singh, Christopher Ball and Fitzgerald Richard, said they were looking forward to working at Frankston after a three-month stint in the city.
Mr Singh hopes to follow his father into the police force and sees the job as a stepping stone to achieving his goal.
Mr Ball, a former floorlayer, was looking for a change in career and Mr Richard was a police officer in Mauritius before coming to Australia.
‘‘Sometime’’ commuter Mick Hughes, from Bonbeach, said he deliberately avoided travelling on trains at night because of safety issues.
‘‘This [PSOs] is great. But I still won’t be travelling at night until they are on every station as Mr Baillieu promised,’’ he said.