Shepparton police Inspector Troy Hargadon has played down concerns about terrorism in country towns following comments made by Victoria’s police chief.
On Thursday, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton announced $25million from the state budget would be allocated to arm and train 600 police officers to use long-arm semi-automatic firearms.
The weapons and training will be for operational response unit officers in the central business district and selected officers in some country towns.
Chief Comm Ashton said growing security threats meant police in country areas needed to be prepared for anything.
‘‘We all know that a terrorist event could occur just as easily in remote country as it can inner city,’’ he said.
‘‘For the first time we will be able to establish such capability in rural Victoria so throughout the country areas where it would take us a lot of time to get people with this capability to there ... they will have this capability themselves in remote areas.’’
Insp Hargadon said there was certainly nothing he was aware of which raised concerns about terrorism in rural environments.
‘‘The nature and the environment that is policing is changing everyday, inherently there are risks and we can’t ignore those facts,’’ he said.
‘‘This is simply about ensuring that in the unlikely event that an incident does occur in our region, that we have adequate resources ... to perform our function the best we can.’’
Chief Comm Ashton said the guns would help officers in rural towns better respond to incidents where ‘‘police (are) turning up at farm properties in the middle of the night (and) we know the owners have got access to long-arms and we are at a significant disadvantage’’.
Insp Hargadon said Shepparton police members were open to any improvements or measures which were going to improve or increase response capabilities.
‘‘In any rural environment, particularly farming and agriculture, the likelihood of lawful weapons being present is high,’’ he said.
‘‘Unfortunately, there is a minority in our community who have access to or connections with, the illegal use of firearms and weapons.
‘‘But our risks are no greater than they are anywhere else in the state.’’