Published on 17 January 2023
The council’s Community Safety team is ready to help on the streets (and sand) this summer – and throughout the year.
Chances are you’ve spotted their bright community safety vehicles on the road (or sand). But do you know what a City of Onkaparinga community safety officer— commonly known as a ‘ranger’— actually does?
Essentially, rangers help ensure community safety within 10 different Acts, associated regulations and council by-laws to help keep Onkaparinga’s public places safe.
This sees them responding to requests from the community; proactively patrolling council-managed areas such as the foreshore, parks and reserves; and providing information and advice to customers and council staff.
Their day-to-day roles can encompass things as varied as animal management, dumped rubbish, illegal parking, abandoned vehicles, and foreshore activities, including facilitating vehicle access.
Wherever possible, they try to solve problems by discussion, negotiation and public education.
“Once, I helped a resident bring down their dog from their house rooftop,” laughs Dylan, one of the council’s rangers, when asked about some of the more interesting tasks he’s performed.
Thia, another ranger, says she enjoys jobs involving roosters and chickens, which are sometimes the subject of noise complaints.
“They can live in residential areas and some owners build these huge backyard sanctuaries for them, treat them like family, and give them funny names,” she says.
Animal management constitutes the largest part of the rangers’ workload, which totalled more than 8400 requests in 2021–22. But many of the jobs are no laughing matter.
The rangers responded to almost one dog attack or harassment report each day (345) in 2021–22, which means they must be constantly vigilant and responsive. There are more than 35,000 registered dogs in Onkaparinga, and there were more than 1000 reports of dogs wandering at large in 2021–22.
The figures are a timely reminder to keep dogs on-leash if you don’t have them under effective control. A new by-law also requires owners to keep dogs on-leash within 100 metres of any sign that includes the words ‘Hooded Plover’, or indicates the birds are in the area.
The rangers also received 414 dumped rubbish, 1492 illegal parking and 480 abandoned vehicle reports in 2021–22.
Dylan says the toughest part of the job is encountering customers who aren’t happy to see them.
“We’re guided by by-laws and state legislation, so we’re often seen as ‘law-enforcement officers’, and that can raise people’s defensiveness,” Thia adds.
“The challenge is to continue providing exemplary service, no matter how challenging or noncomplying some people may be.”
There are misconceptions around the rangers’ role in anti-social or criminal behaviour, such as hoon-driving on beaches, which is outside their remit and must be escalated to police.
Challenges aside, both Thia and Dylan take pride in community safety, and enjoy the fast-paced and unpredictable nature of the role.
For Thia—who’s passionate about sustainability, conservation, and animals—helping protect threatened Hooded Plovers, natural spaces, and domesticated animals is a major attraction of the role.
"I like connecting with the wider community and enjoy providing the education piece to support and change people’s mindset for the better,” she says.
Ranger services are available Monday to Friday from 7am to 8pm, and on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 8am to 7pm. Requests for service can be made online or by calling 8384 0666 during office hours, or 8384 0622 after hours.
Picture: Rangers Dylan and Thia alongside Hooded Plover volunteer Ash Read at Aldinga Beach