Our modern society seems obsessed with crime rates and stats. Who doesn’t enjoy spending his Saturday morning – coffee in hand – looking at the crime graph for your suburb to see if you were actually safer now than a year ago? Down is good for your property value. Seems strange that you would need a graph to tell you this. I would look out the window to see if my car was still there, same as last year.
If we were to believe our seniors it used to be a lot safer. We could leave everything unlocked, open or unattended. But then again, according to them, everything was better in those days, right down to the food and air. Crime seems to be a fairly recent invention.
Whenever I hear something on the news about police presence, police budget cuts or police number my mind wanders off to a little town called Melrose, propped up against the foothills of Mount Remarkable in the Southern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Settled in the 1840’s this oldest town in the Flinders Ranges was founded as pastoral community, which was not a great success due to the lack of rainfall. The population of Melrose has never exceeded the hundreds, even today it only has a population of 406 (2011 Census).
Nevertheless, apparently, Melrose still needed a police station (see photo) which opened in 1848. Maybe the population was unusually unruly in the typical Aussie sense, as with many Australian frontier towns in those days. However, the remarkable fact here is that this very police station was the base of the largest police district in the world. A constable, two troopers and an Aboriginal tracker were responsible for an area extending to the Timor Sea a mere 2700 km away. That is a large area, even by Australian standards. Imagine being one of the troopers telling your missus you’re off to do your round. “Don’t wait for dinner, hun! I’ll be back in 3 or 4 months.”
As is exemplary in many a frontier town’s history, such commitment in the police force as seen in Melrose can only be explained by a passion in keeping its community safe. Or their wives must have been horrible cooks.