An increase in community phone calls made to the Police Assistance Line in Victoria has led to personnel from the Australian Defence Force (ADF) providing a helping hand.

The Police Assistance Line is a dedicated public phone number for the community to report or get advice on non-urgent crimes and events 24 hours a day.

With the entire state under level three isolation laws to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and to prevent the state’s health system from becoming overwhelmed, telephone and online reporting to the Ballarat-based call centre dramatically increased.

The ADF was approached by Victoria Police to see if it could provide call centre assistance. Under the Defence Assistance to Civil Community provisions, a group of infantry soldiers from 8/7 Royal Victorian Regiment based in Ballarat and Sunshine responded to the request.

The Officer in Charge of the Police Assistance Line call centre, Inspector Steve Towers, said approaching the ADF for help was an easy decision to make.

“We needed to get some personnel who were reliable, self-disciplined, could learn quickly and able to communicate effectively with respect to dealing with the public,” Inspector Towers said.

“The ADF met that criteria and we knew that working relationship was already in place, following on from the recent bushfires experienced across the state.

“The ADF have become a fully integrated part of our team and have assisted in over 48,000 COVID-19 related calls.”

Coronavirus-related calls can include the report of mass gatherings, businesses breaching their operating restrictions or people suspected of breaching social-isolation protocols.

In a normal operating environment, the call centre receives an average of 2000 calls a month. Since the enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions the calls have escalated to more than 1000 a day.

Lance Corporal William Paffrath, from 8/7 Royal Victorian Regiment, said he had found the work to be challenging and rewarding.

“The Victorian Police and the ADF share a very similar work ethic and that has been the bond that has enabled us to adjust to this task quickly and efficiently,” Lance Corporal Paffrath said.

“To know that we are contributing to the health and safety of the community is in itself a rewarding experience.”