NSW’s new top cop is considering setting up local “SVU-style” squads of specialist police to combat sex crimes and support survivors across the state.
Karen Webb was announced as NSW’s new police commissioner on Wednesday after Mick Fuller revealed he would stand down from the top job.
Ms Webb, the first woman appointed to the role, said her focus was on supporting victims of crime – particularly survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, assault and domestic violence.
She told The Daily Telegraph she was eyeing the hiring of “dedicated officers” for special victims units in local area commands to investigate sexual assault crimes.
“Maybe not in every command, but I think we just need that cohort of officers that (are) really good at it,” she told the newspaper.
“Where we’ve got dedicated officers, you know that they have great victim care and see these cases through”.
Sexual assault is the only offence that has been on the rise in NSW over the past two years, according to the latest quarterly crime report by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
Sexual assault was up by 21 per cent in the 24 months to June. All other crime categories had either gone down or were stable during this period.
Ms Webb’s predecessor Mr Fuller said earlier this year that intimate violence, particularly against women, was a “real problem crime” for NSW and a solution needed to be found.
Landmark consent laws passed on Tuesday mean people in NSW who plan to have sex will need to take active steps to make sure the other person wants to participate.
The new rules mean a person can’t reasonably believe another person wants to have sex without doing or saying something to make sure that’s the case.
Ms Webb on Thursday reiterated her commitment to supporting victims of crime.
“Particularly victims of personal violence crime because they are the ones that really need our support – victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault,” she told Sunrise.
“It does not mean that offenders get off, (there will be) zero tolerance for criminals and we will be holding offenders to account.”
She said she wanted officers to return to their traditional policing duties now that the immediate pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic had eased, with a plan for local area commands to work out what their communities want from the police force.
Ms Webb, who was most recently the Deputy Commissioner for corporate services, spent time investigating crimes against children in the child mistreatment unit.
She also worked at the drug enforcement agency and with police commands in Lismore and western Sydney before being promoted to commander of the traffic and highway patrol in 2020.
Ms Webb, who joined the force as an officer at the Castle Hill station in Sydney in 1987, was elevated from assistant commissioner to deputy commissioner in July this year.
She is expected to formally take on the role of police commissioner in January 2022.
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