Community's resolve strong

No town wants to be in the news for all the wrong reasons.

All communities in regional areas pride themselves on being caring places to live, to raise their children and to make connections to ensure people look out for each other.

For a host of reasons though the scourge of crime imposes challenges that while not insurmountable, can certainly stretch a town to the limit.

The vibrant hub of Wangaratta has certainly had its fair share of such difficulties in recent years.

First there was the far-reaching impact of the growing use of the drug methamphetamine, or ice, which ultimately resulted in several high-profile arrests and successful prosecutions.

The impact of the dealing in this insidious drug was felt by many families in the city, of all socio-economic backgrounds.

And then there have been four violent deaths in the city over just 19 months – those of Whorouly’s Karen Chetcuti Verbunt and 11-year-old Zoe Buttigieg last year and more recently, that of Russell Berry in a violent brawl in White Street only three weeks after Ora Holt was shot and killed by her partner.

Wangaratta residents began to wonder if there was something especially wrong in their town, which will host a law and order forum on July 31.

The aim is to give the community the chance to express their concerns with respect to the justice system across matters ranging from bail, parole and sentencing to supporting the victims of crime.

It remains to be seen, with the passage of time, whether though these deaths –  as terrible and devastating as they are – ​simply are a statistical blimp or the result of something else yet to be determined.

Regardless, the simple fact according to the latest statistics is that crime within Wangaratta City has dropped, though it has risen across the area covered by the city’s police.

Police certainly don’t shy away from the reality – and that’s one faced by law enforcement across the country – that complex problems are at play when it comes to crime rates.

But as Wangaratta’s Inspector Kerrie Hicks says, despite the devastation of these recent deaths, which had made a “considerable” impact, what was going one was unusual.

Indeed, the community that she says has overwhelmed her for its “response and strength” shows there is a way forward.

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