Local police have once more urged Tumut residents to lock vehicles and secure valuables amid the continuing thefts around town.
Inspector Stephen Radford said most of the thefts occurring are from unlocked vehicles, despite years of police warnings for people to lock their vehicles.
Inspector Radford noted officers have put in place a range of initiatives to help combat the spree, including extending shifts to provide 24-hour coverage in the town.
Inspector Radford said officers were targeting known offenders and encouraged the public to utilise CCTV technology, which act as both a deterrent and assist in investigations.
Highway Patrol vehicles are being redirected to target early morning traffic and police are conducting increased patrols in both marked and unmarked vehicles.
“We encourage the reporting of suspicious behaviour to local police or Crimestoppers on 1800 333 000,” Insp. Radford said.
“We’re asking people to report thefts promptly to police – and not just on social media.
Inspector Radford said urgent matters can also be reported via 000, if the local station is not answering.
“Incidents need to be reported promptly and to ‘000’,” he said.
“They will then be sent by radio to car crews to attend and forensics staff may need to examine the vehicles. If no car crews are working at the time staff will be recalled from home to attend.
“If you know who is doing this let us know. There is no point telling your story on social media – if you haven’t told the local police first.
“If we can work together, secure our property, communicate in relation to who is committing these offences and where and when it is happening I’m sure we can disrupt this behaviour.”
Officers last week published CCTV footage of a man seen in the vicinity of several thefts from motor vehicles in Capper Street.
Police said there’s been an increase in thefts from homes and motor vehicles in the Tumut area over the past six months.
Inspector Radford defended the police response to the ongoing crimewave.
“We are doing our best to target these offenders – who in essence are a group of naughty young people who go out nightly to thieve from unsecured cars and joy ride in unsecured vehicles,” Insp. Radford said.
“We are responsible for around 9,000 square kilometres, have 21 general duties staff and are not a 24 hour station.
“We simply cannot be on every street corner every minute of the day.
“We need the public to understand this so we can work together with the resources we have.”
Inspector Radford said there were also a number of strategies in place in an attempt to deter crime over the longer term.
PCYC programs involving at-risk youths have been run with a particular emphasis on vehicle thefts, while the highly regarded Clontarf program has started at Tumut High.
Wagga MP Joe McGirr said crime was among the major issues raised with him by community members, in both Wagga and Tumut, with both areas going through their own problems.
“It’s pretty clear by the statistics that other areas in the state have seen a reduction in crime,” Dr McGirr said. “But not in Wagga or Tumut. Break and enters and motor vehicle theft appear to be an issue.”
Dr McGirr said additional police numbers are needed.
“The state government has committed to an additional 1500 police officers,”he said.
“I think Tumut and Wagga need to get a chunk of that.
“There’s also a lot of concern from police about repeat offenders – younger people who have three to four offences – who can obtain bail easily. It’s an issue for cops monitoring their behaviour.”
Dr McGirr suggested it’s a job not just for the police, arguing a multi-agency approach was required, involving such government departments as community services, housing and health to come together to examine what strategies could be implemented to reduce crime in this area.
“Those people on the front line do know a lot of the issues, but we do have a silo approach,” Dr McGirr said.
At a meeting of the Tumut Community Association last week which Dr McGirr attended, TCA president Col Locke said the association was lobbying for a youth facility.
“There seems to be a swathe of youth roaming the streets, disengaged from families,” Mr Locke said. “It’s become a problem that’s impacting the day-to-day life of residents.”
Dr McGirr noted the impact of a program such as Clontarf, which focuses on education initiatives for Indigenous students, has been having at Mt Austin High School.
The program has recently been rolled out in Tumut.
“It’s important to have people moving through to employment and further education, so they’re invested in society,” Dr McGirr said.