THE roll-out of Protective Services Officers (PSOs) at Footscray and other railway stations in Melbourne has been broadly backed by train travellers and local police.
A survey of more than 1700 night-time travellers, including 357 at Yarraville station, found four in five people strongly agreed that PSOs patrolling railway stations is a good idea, and they would readily seek assistance from a PSO.
PSO patrols are due to begin at Yarraville early next month.
Police Minister Peter Ryan said the survey data indicated 41percent of respondents strongly agreed having PSOs patrol train stations would influence them to travel more often by train after 6pm.
"This is not just about addressing the incidence of crime and antisocial behaviour at train stations, but also about changing the perception of safety and creating an environment that will support greater use of the rail network."
The 'Protective Services Officers Research' survey found the less frequently people travelled at night, the less safe they tended to feel.
People also reported feeling safer on trains than at train stations and safer during Monday-Thursday than on Friday and Saturday nights.
Footscray police inspector Tony Long said police and station staff had observed a sharp decline in reports of graffiti and vandalism at Footscray station since PSOs began patrolling from 6pm in May.
"We feel they are a real asset to have here in Footscray," he said. "They have made a number of arrests, but probably more importantly they have provided a safe haven at the station."
Inspector Long said police resources had been freed up to deal with other problems across the area.
The state government has allocated $212 million to recruit, train and deploy PSOs at every metropolitan train station as well as four major regional centres from 6pm until the last train every night of the year. A total of 116 PSOs are now patrolling Flinders Street, Southern Cross, Melbourne Central, Footscray, Dandenong, Parliament, Richmond, North Melbourne, Box Hill, Epping and Noble Park.
This is still only a fraction of the 940 pledged by Premier Ted Baillieu before the last election.
The Premier remains hopeful of reaching the target by November 2014, but Labor is critical of a doubling in the total cost of the policy in just 18 months.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay said Footscray was one of the first stations chosen because of high passenger numbers and existing crime rates.