Crime Stoppers Victoria (CSV) is urging Geelong and Surf Coast residents and visitors to confidentially report reckless and deliberate fire behaviour before it puts lives in danger.
Today Crime Stoppers Victoria is joining forces with Geelong Police, CFA and Forest Fire Management Victoria to remind Victorians of the potentially disastrous consequences of recklessly caused bush and grass fires as the weather heats up.
The call comes as part of a three-month collaborative campaign between Crime Stoppers Victoria and Geelong Police to drive down crime across the area and create a safer community.
The new initiative will see Crime Stoppers Victoria conduct a number of public call-outs in a bid to drive community information to the confidential crime-reporting service, helping to locate wanted people and solve crime.
Crime Stoppers Victoria General Manager Cathy Rhodes urged the community to support the campaign by reporting information confidentially to Crime Stoppers.
“This campaign demonstrates Crime Stoppers Victoria’s commitment to help solve crime and create a safer Victoria,” she said.
“Over the next three months CSV will name a number of wanted people and seek to identify a number of alleged offenders police want to speak to in relation to crime committed in Geelong and the surrounding area. The community will be urged to review the images we release and report what they know confidentially to Crime Stoppers in a bid to help solve crime in the area.
“The campaign will focus on a number of crime types, with today’s focus being reckless fires.
“Recklessly causing a bushfire or grassfire is a crime with disastrous consequences – costing property, livelihoods and lives.
“If you know of anyone engaging in reckless fire behaviour, or have any information about reckless or deliberately lit fires, we urge you to make a report to Crime Stoppers confidentially.”
Reckless behaviour can include disobeying restrictions relating to Total Fire Ban or Fire Danger Periods, leaving campfires unattended, burning off without a permit, or using hot tools or machinery that emit flames or sparks on Total Fire Ban days.
Geelong Acting Superintendent Geoff Colsell said: “This collaborative campaign forms part of Geelong Police’s overall efforts to ensure our community is safe and feels safe at all times.
“Starting a bushfire or grassfire is a crime and we will pursue anyone putting our community at risk through reckless or deliberate actions.
“Today’s launch will focus on reckless and dangerous fire behaviour during the summer months. Later focuses will include outstanding offenders wanted on arrest warrants and unsolved crimes including robbery and assault.
“Please support and follow this campaign by reporting anything you know confidentially to Crime Stoppers.”
According to Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency there were 60 offences recorded for ‘causing a bushfire’ in Victoria between October 2016 and September 2017 and none recorded for the Greater Geelong LGA during the same period.
Penalties for causing a bushfire include up to 15 years imprisonment or fines of over $36,000. The maximum penalty for arson resulting in death is 25 years imprisonment.
CFA Assistant Chief Officer (South West Region) Rohan Luke said the organisation took a zero tolerance approach to any unauthorised fires or fires resulting from negligent behaviour subject to police investigation.
“A fire started at any time of the year which damages someone else’s property is a crime,” he said.
“For information about burn-off restrictions specific to your area consult your local council or the CFA website warnings and restrictions tab.
“We’re in the midst of what is expected to be an above-average fire season, it further heightens the need for extreme caution. Last weekend’s extreme weather conditions further highlight the need for, vigilance, care and responsible behaviour.
“Even if you have a permit to use fire over the Fire Danger Period, make sure you read the conditions carefully. Failing to follow just one of those conditions may leave you open to prosecution.”
Forest Fire Management Victoria Forest, Fire and Operations Regional Manager Steve Pellicano said: “A call to Crime Stoppers can make all the difference, whether it be reporting suspicious activity at a grass fire near Lorne or the illegal use of fireworks in a Geelong backyard.
“In the Otways and Geelong region, Forest Fire Management Victoria has close to 100 firefighters, aircraft and vehicles ready to respond if a bushfire breaks out on a summer’s day – but it’s not enough.
“We need everyone to take responsibility this summer, by keeping an eye out for suspicious and reckless activity around fires.”
A second media opportunity will be held in Geelong in February to launch phase two of the campaign.
People who know of reckless or deliberate behaviour that could lead to a bushfire are urged to report to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
In an emergency, or if you see smoke or flames, contact 000.
For further statistics regarding bushfires across Victoria visit the Crime Statistics Agency website at https://www.crimestatistics.vic.gov.au.
To read about restrictions during days of Total Fire Ban and/or the Fire Danger Period visit www.cfa.vic.gov.au/can.
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