A beefed-up fine will be enough to deter unlawful gatherings in the absence of Melbourne’s nightly curfew, according to Victoria Police boss Shane Patton.
The city’s 9pm-5am curfew was lifted on Monday, eight weeks after it was brought in to limit movement and aid enforcement amid the state’s devastating coronavirus second wave.
The chief commissioner welcomed the state government raising the penalty for people attending parties and other private and public gatherings to compensate for the absence of a curfew.
“I would like to think a $5000 fine is going to act as a general deterrent,” Mr Patton told reporters on Monday.
“I think when you put a number five with three zeros next to it, it is such a significant hit to the pocket that people will say it’s just not worth the risk.
“It’s as simple as that.”
Mr Patton acknowledged dropping the curfew would mean more people moving about, but added police were equipped with “adequate powers” to handle it.
“You still have to have one of the four reasons to leave home,” he said.
There were at least 10 separate parties at short-term rental properties across Melbourne over the weekend, Mr Patton said, with 93 fines handed out.
Under the enhanced fine, Mr Patton said a party at Hoppers Crossing in the city’s outer southwest would have resulted in fines worth nearly six figures.
“There were around 40 people when we turned up,” he said.
“Several of them did a runner. Some just dispersed. We ended up giving out 15 infringements.
“If we gave out those 15 infringements under this new guideline, that would be a $75,000 party.
“That’s a heck of a party.”
With warmer weather on the way, Mr Patton warned police would increase patrols around populated areas and keep a close watch outside houses.
“If there’s a lot of cars in a street in a particular area outside of residents, we’ll be knocking on those doors,” he said.
The public is urged to tip off police if they come across an illegal gathering, or suspect one is taking place, in a private residence or public setting.
“It’s not dobbing in someone,” Mr Patton said.
“It’s actually calling out selfish, arrogant, ignorant behaviour … where people deliberately put others at risk.”