Task force arrests our skyrocketing crime rate

By Ivy Jensen

A TASK force created to target Echuca’s skyrocketing burglary and vehicle crime has helped to disrupt criminal activity, according to our top cop.

Almost 20 raids and several arrests have been made since the formation of the Campaspe Crime Task Force.

Alarming new data from the Crime Statistics Agency Home revealed home burglaries and car thefts doubled across Echuca in the 12 months ending March 31.

Statistics revealed residential burglaries doubled to 150, compared to only 75 the previous year, while car thefts jumped from 38 to 76.

Car thefts have continued to rise since then, with several vehicles stolen and used in burglaries before being set alight.

Thefts from cars have also jumped 32 per cent to 176 — that’s almost one every second day.

Our police Inspector Anthony Vanderzalm said the task force carried out 18 search warrants which led to the recovery of weapons, drugs and stolen property.

‘‘A trend was identified where offenders were targeting supermarkets, butcher shops and liquor stores,’’ he said.

‘‘Several offenders from the northern suburbs of Melbourne were charged, resulting in a disruption to this offending.’’

Statistics have also shown aggravated robberies are on the rise, with crimes doubling to four.

They included a robbery at Echuca Sanity in February and the attempted armed robbery of an innocent man at knifepoint at the Coles carpark.

‘‘There is a concern about the number of street robberies occurring in the community,’’ Insp. Vanderzalm said.

‘‘While the offence rate for robbery remains stable, this is being closely monitored.

‘‘Youths are over-represented both as victims and perpetrators of these crimes.’’

Drug crime is also up, with possession offences more than doubling from 29 to 63, while trafficking jumped from six to 10.

‘‘There has been an increase of drug offences in Echuca partially driven by 20 offenders who were charged with multiple offences, making up a third of the total offending in this category,’’ Insp. Vanderzalm said.

‘‘An increase in the number of search warrants executed has contributed to the increase in drug possession offences.’’

Violence is also escalating, with a 26 per cent rise (from 34-43) in serious assaults not related to family violence.

However, family violence still takes up most of the police’s time, with more resources being put into tackling the scourge.

There has been an 80 per cent jump in family violence-related common assault, from 41 to 74, an eight per cent increase of breach of family violence orders (from 266 to 287) while threatening behaviour rose from three to 11.

Insp. Vanderzalm said holding family violence perpetrators to account and enhancing the response to victims was a force-wide focus for Victoria Police.

He said the implementation of the Family Violence Investigation Unit model continued to have an impact in this area, dealing with some of the state’s most serious family violence cases and treating them as criminal investigations.

‘‘More than 240 of the 415 new family violence specialists have been deployed across the state with all positions to be filled by April 2020, so I would expect our enforcement activity in this area to continue to rise,’’ he said.

‘‘Our additional boots on the ground is enabling us to do more proactive police work, which means more patrols, more ID checks and more arrests.

‘‘We make no apologies for cracking down on people who fail to comply with reporting obligations or breach orders.

‘‘Our focus for this next year is about police making sure the community is as safe as possible.’’