Gun thefts shooting up

March 28, 2018

CAMPASPE is a hotspot for firearm thefts. Alarming news for police, as guns in the wrong hands are proving a dangerous combination.

CAMPASPE is a hotspot for firearm thefts.

Alarming news for police, as guns in the wrong hands are proving a dangerous combination.

According to Crime Statistics Agency figures, 760 firearms were reported stolen across Victoria last year, 36 of which occurred in Campaspe Shire.

Putting us in the top three gun theft locations, after Yarra Ranges (51) and Greater Geelong (38).

Campaspe police Inspector Geoff Owen said it was a huge concern as guns were being stolen for criminal and nefarious reasons.

‘‘We see an increase of ice users possessing illegal firearms due to their amplified drug-induced paranoia,’’ he said.

‘‘Ice use induces a greater level of aggression and paranoia than other illicit drugs and we have arrested criminals who are ice users, locating firearms in their vehicles and residences.’’

Insp. Owen said most of the stolen firearms, which included air rifles, centre fire, rim fire and shotguns, had been taken from rural farming areas where guns were most prevalent and there was less potential to be seen.

‘‘Usually owners have more than one firearm registered to them and stored together and when a theft incident occurs, it is usual to see all the firearms stolen from the one incident,’’ he said.

‘‘There have been incidences where holiday homes have been burgled and firearms have gone missing.’’

Insp. Owen said he believed a portion of the stolen firearms were specifically targeted, but most guns thefts were opportunistic.

‘‘Offenders often discover guns unsecured in burgled premises or unlocked vehicles,’’ he said. ‘‘What is concerning is the number of opportunistic firearms thefts that could have been prevented by owners securing the firearms immediately after using them.

‘‘There are recorded incidents in Campaspe where farmers and car owners have simply left the firearm in their unlocked car or in sheds and garages and thieves have seen and taken them.

‘‘The blase attitude of some gun owners towards immediate and safe storage of their firearms after use is disappointing and leaves themselves open to prosecution for failing to securely store their firearms.

‘‘Gun ownership is a privilege and owners need to understand and comply to their responsibilities under the Firearms Act including all storage conditions.’’

Insp. Owen said police were putting significant effort into investigating every firearm theft, but it sometimes proved challenging.

Although gun thefts are recorded centrally, thieves often scrub out the serial number and cut down barrels and stocks, making the gun easier to hide.

‘‘This presents difficulty for police to backtrack to identify seized guns against recorded gun thefts,’ Insp. Owen said.

Insp. Owen said police liaised with their NSW counterparts to ensure intelligence sharing on gun thefts and offending.

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