Help Catch Bushfire Arsonists Before They Strike is a new campaign launched last month by Crime Stoppers Victoria designed to identify and apprehend arsonists.
Arson is a very serious and devastating crime, something we are all very much aware of after living through one of the worst bushfires Australia has ever seen in February 2009.
Bushfire arson is a bushfire caused by a person intentionally or recklessly.
Bushfires have the potential to injure or kill people and wildlife, cause significant financial loss, and destroy property as well as the environment.
This summer, Victoria Police will be conducting high visibility patrols in high-risk areas to prevent and apprehend arsonists as part of a statewide coordinated initiative that will intensify during periods of high fire danger.
As part of Operation Firesetter, members will be out on the street, doorknocking residences, and visiting shopping centres and schools to educate the community about how we can all help to prevent and detect bushfire arson. Police will also be patrolling roads and car parks in areas identified as being high risk and leaving notices on parked cars to advise they’ve been seen and their registration numbers noted.
Up to half of the fires on Black Saturday were deliberately (or recklessly) lit and we will be doing everything we can to try and prevent this from ever happening again.
But Victoria Police can’t do this alone. We can’t be everywhere so we need your help. Bushfire arsonists are not always strangers. They often live and work in local communities.
When you are out and about, take note of what is going on around you. If you believe a person, or vehicle, is behaving in a suspicious manner write down the details. If you record these details straightaway, the more accurate they are likely to be, and the more helpful the information will be to police.
For a person, note their age, height, hair colour and length, build, facial hair, clothing and ethnic appearance, and even scars or tattoos. For a vehicle, note the registration, make, model, colour and any damage to the body of the vehicle.
Bushfire arson is taken very seriously with the maximum penalty for arson causing death in Victoria being 25 years imprisonment. The maximum penalty for intentionally or recklessly causing a bushfire is 15 years imprisonment.
If you see anything suspicious, we urge you to report this behaviour to 000, particularly if you suspect someone is about to light or has just lit a fire. So if you know anything, please let us know or provide information through Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppers.com.au
On behalf of Victoria Police, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe New Year. Remember to look after yourselves and each other. As always, if you see something, say something.
By with SNR CONST GABRIELLE TYACKE
Victoria Police Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit