But the Deputy Commissioner said on Tuesday police had issued fewer than 100 fines in the past few days – compared with the peak in mid-April when 183 people were slapped with infringement notices in one day.
An Age analysis of Victoria Police data showed a 37 per cent drop in the number of fines issued over the Easter long weekend and last weekend, even with a similar number of checks during both periods.
About 3000 spot checks were carried out over both periods, but one in six people were fined (532 infringements) from Good Friday to Easter Monday compared to last Friday to Monday, when 333 fines were issued, or about one in nine people.
“I reiterated some messaging last week about the need for us to use discretion and really only be fining those deliberate, obvious and blatant breaches where a warning wouldn’t fit,” Mr Patton said on Tuesday.
“And our members have responded very well. We’ve seen decreases [in fines issued]. There were less than 100 infringements a day over the last few days, so that’s very pleasing to see, and I think it’s indicative of a general compliance by the public and everyone trying to do the right thing.”
There has also been a drop in the number of people using the police hotline to dob in those breaching state-of-emergency directions.
There were about 2400 tip-offs a day during the peak in late March and early April. That figure has dropped to about 1300 in recent days.
“Hopefully that’s an indication that people are doing the right thing,” Police Minister Lisa Neville said.
Under Victoria’s strict stage-three restrictions, people are allowed to leave their homes only to provide and seek care, attend work or school, purchase food and essential supplies, and exercise. People caught breaching these rules face a $1652 fine.
Victoria Police conducted 893 spot checks on Monday and issued 89 fines.
Those fined included the owner of a massage business in Frankston and two workers; five people travelling in a vehicle in Williamstown; and a Geelong person found drunk on a train in Frankston.
Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre chief executive Anthony Kelly said the group had noticed a drop in reports from the community to its monitoring website COVID Policing.
He said it could mean police were using their powers properly or it could be due to less publicity about arbitrary fines.
But people were still reporting being anxious and stressed after their interactions with police, Mr Kelly said.
“We see that with targeted and particularly migrant and Indigenous communities on a regular basis. These are reports we’ve been seeing for decades, but now in this COVID-19 environment, the same sort of policing is being applied to a much wider range of people,” he said.
Mr Kelly called for independent monitoring of the stops and fines, to determine if police were over-reaching or discriminatory.
Sumeyya is a state political reporter for The Age.
Tammy Mills is the legal affairs reporter for The Age.
Craig Butt joined The Age in 2011 and specialises in data-driven journalism.