Police pull plug on Blue Light discos

ORGANISERS of Victorian Blue Light events fear for the alcohol and drug free youth entertainment program's future.

Victoria Police has withdrawn its support from Blue Light, after 38 years.

From March 31, Victoria Police will no longer provide dedicated full-time staff and resources to the Blue Light State Level Committee.

It has also deferred the responsibility for policing Blue Light events to area commanders, who will have to decide whether to assign members to Blue Light activities.

"That is so community engagement remains a priority, but doesn't impact on frontline operations," a Victoria Police spokeswoman said.

"Victoria Police encourages Blue Light to continue as a community-led youth engagement program."

Horsham Inspector Trevor Ashton said he was waiting on further information from Blue Light about the program's future.

"Questions remain in regard to the longevity of Blue Light," he said.

But he said the changes had put him and people in positions like his throughout the state in a tough spot.

"I can only imagine it will have an impact on rostering and resources, because while we have a number of competing interests, we have to ensure we maintain a quality service delivery to the community," he said.

The Blue Light program is best known for its alcohol, drug and violence free discos and camps for people under 18.

Police members have traditionally supervised Blue Light activities, along with community volunteers.

Two Blue Light branches exist in the Wimmera, in Horsham and Nhill.

Blue Light Victoria state treasurer and Jeparit Leading Senior Constable Graham Blair said he was not aware of any events hosted by either since the start of the year.

"We've been trying to get support from local members in the area," he said.

Sen Const Blair said Blue Light addressed an important gap in policing capabilities and community needs.

Victoria Police members cannot apply for funding for youth community initiatives without an organisation to run the program.

If police could not back the idea, Mr Blair said members could apply for a grant through Blue Light.

"It supports many initiatives," he said.

Swan Hill and Yarra branches have received almost $30,000 each for programs .

Blue Light Victoria chief executive Ivan Ray said he empathised with area commanders who supported the initiative and who would have to decide whether to crew a divisional van or send police to a Blue Light disco.

"Victoria Police has put local managers in an impossible situation by directing that police are to be rostered on duty for Blue Light activities, subject to local operational priorities," Mr Ray said.

He said police used to be involved in Blue Light through time-off provisions, as distinct from being rostered on.

Mr Ray has called on the government to sit down with Blue Light and Victoria Police and work out a solution which ensured the initiative's future and satisfied Victoria Police.

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