Her comments, which she stood by on Monday afternoon, followed an increased police presence in Northbridge on Saturday night, leading to 33 arrests, 15 summonses and 70 move-on notices being issued.

Those on welfare payments have had their benefit increased from $280 a week to $555 a week due to a temporary coronavirus supplement payment to support people currently out of work.

WA Police Minister Michelle Roberts believes recent violent incidents in Northbridge can be attributed to welfare payment increases put in place to help people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic. Credit:Nine News Perth

AnglicareWA chief executive Mark Glasson said the increased payments were having an overwhelmingly positive impact lifting people out of poverty.

“What we’re seeing is the increased money is being spent on food, accommodation, paying bills, making sure children have clothes and prescriptions are filled,” he said.

“People are using the extra money to make long-term improvement to their lives, some are improving their accommodation, others are able to buy a fortnight’s worth of food where previously they would rely on charities like us every second week.

“The front page of the paper or the [Police] Minister’s comments basically said, ‘You’re an irresponsible person and we can’t trust you to do the right thing,’ and that’s not what we’re seeing.

“We’ve been trying to solve poverty in this country for a long, long time and what we’ve seen through COVID-19, through this supplement, is it is remarkably easy to do.”

WA Police were unable to provide statistics on recent violence in Northbridge since coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

Non-family assaults and threatening behaviour charges for the 2019-2020 financial year showed a decline in violence.

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When nightclubs in the area were shut for around three months from mid-March, University of WA criminologist Joe Clare said crime in Northbridge “fell through the floor”.

He said the corresponding 40 per cent reduction in property-related crimes, such as home burglaries and stealing, showed removing the opportunity for an offence to happen was the most effective way to minimise crime.

He compared the trend to the drop in car thefts WA experienced after immobilisers became compulsory in 2001.

“Just like the vehicle immobiliser example, we didn’t need to detain all vehicle thieves or double sentence lengths or build more prisons or anything like that; we just made cars harder to steal and then vehicle theft stopped,” he said.

“So if we take the logic of that and flow it through to other things, rather than suggest crime could be prevented with tougher sentences or more police … how can we remove the opportunity for that crime to happen moving forward by being creative through things like design and security?”

Heather McNeill is a senior journalist at WAtoday.

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