FIGHTBOOK: Spike in assaults a concern for Wodonga police

Wodonga Insp Tony Davis says online threats between young people are escalating into real world violence. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON
Wodonga Insp Tony Davis says online threats between young people are escalating into real world violence. Picture: DYLAN ROBINSON

THREATS made in the virtual world are escalating into real-life violence, in a trend that concerns Wodonga police.

They say a spike in assaults in the past year is partly due to people retaliating in the real world against comments made on social media sites such as Facebook. 

Victoria Police crime data released yesterday showed overall crimes against the person has increased about 42 per cent between April last year and March.

There were 282 non-family violence related assaults reported, up from 214 (a 31.8 per cent jump) between April 2012 and March last year.

Wodonga Insp Tony Davis said police had found many of these offenders were younger, between 14 and 24, and were usually known to each other.

“They are generally low-level assaults with minor or no injuries, but there’s always the risk that that can turn very quickly,” he said.

Police were finding more and more of these cases 

originated on social media, where one person had made a comment to or about another.

From there it was a quick escalation to an assault, at or outside the homes of people involved, or in the street.

“People have got to show some moderation in their response to these things,” Insp Davis said.

“If they get a comment they take exception to, it’s always better to ignore it than belt someone.”

He encouraged parents to take an active interest in what their kids were getting up to online, and said further education on this would be tied in with school education programs around social media and cyber-bullying.

Wodonga also saw an increase in the number of family violence assaults with about 241 reported, up from 211 in previous years.

It was a similar story in Wangaratta, with 376 family violence offences recorded.

This was up from 290 a year ago.

But, in contrast to general assaults, these increases were welcomed by police.

“It is not a good thing that it happens, obviously, but it means people have more confidence to come forward and have something done about it,” Insp Davis said.

“These increases mean an increase in community confidence.”

There was a 13.1 per cent jump in residential burglaries in Wodonga, and a 22 per cent increase in Wangaratta.

Insp Davis said locally this was another key focus for police, who wanted to “maintain a strong focus on reducing burglaries”.

Police had since charged a number of burglary offenders, he said, and he expected this figure to start trending down.

Total crime in Wodonga was up 2.4 per cent.

“The ongoing message is that Wodonga is still a safe place to live, with a minority spoiling it for the majority,” he said.