By Jackson Russell
POLICE have launched an expanded version of Operation Sentinel to ensure people in metropolitan Melbourne and Mitchell Shire adhere to reintroduced COVID-19 lockdown measures.
The operation will involve state-wide resources including the public order response team, mounted branch, highway patrol and local police.
Booze buses have been deployed to road stops and checkpoints, such as on the Hume Highway at Beveridge, to monitor traffic flow and police are using automatic number plate recognition to scan registration details and identify the residential addresses of licence-holders.
Seven strategic checkpoints have been setup across metropolitan Melbourne while two more are planned for Heathcote and Avenel.
Mitchell Police Service Area Inspector Peter Koger said there would be an extra unit in both southern Mitchell, which stretches from Wallan to Pyalong, and northern Mitchell, which includes towns from Seymour to Violet Town, every morning and afternoon shift and one extra unit patrolling the entire area overnight.
“On top of that, we’re supporting the police roadside checkpoint at the truck stop at Beveridge. That’s obviously to ensure compliance with the chief health officer’s recommendations and that people aren’t straying too far from home,” he said.
Insp Koger said Mitchell Shire residents had reacted well to the lockdown and police have been educating people along the way.
“I believe the first 12-week lockdown educated the community on their responsibility but it’s still early days and the weekend may be different with people wanting to exercise and travel where they may not be able to,” he said.
While the State Government has sought the assistance of more than 250 Australian Defence Force members to assist with on-ground operations, focusing on staging areas, planning, logistics and transport, Insp Koger said he had not asked for ADF assistance yet.
“Obviously we have to be agile with this situation and if things get worse, we’ll ask for as much assistance as we need,” he said.
“We still have to do our main roles as police on top of what we’re doing now with Operation Sentinel.
“We’ve been recalling members back from leave and rest days to fulfill our requirement for Sentinel patrolling and roadblocks but have also requested members from other areas to ensure it’s sustainable.”