Tumut Cluster Police inspector Stephen Radford says drugs are one of the main causes behind the increase in crimes such as the theft and burning of cars in the area.
The inspector said the crime environment in the Snowy Valleys region had changed in recent years, in part due to use of drugs such as ice.
He pointed out that many of the current crimes were being committed by people dealing with drug addiction issues, who were stealing to support their habits.
“Unfortunately, this small number of young offenders are contributing significantly to our crime statistics – particularly steal from motor vehicle and stolen motor vehicles,” Insp. Radford said.
“Our police are taking action against them and issuing warnings, cautions and youth conferences as required by the Young Offenders Act – prior to charging them if these other options were not effective.
Inspector Radford said police have taken a wide range of strategies in an attempt combat crime rates.
The police ran PCYC programs last year targeting at-risk children, which highlighted the dangers of vehicle theft and engaging in pursuits.
Police have also changed rostering to target specific times of high crime incidence and have later and more random finish times.
There’s been a focus on operations in and around the ‘Tumut Common’ – a typical dumping ground for stolen vehicles.
Staff have been tasked to carry out Mobile RBT and drug testing in and around at-risk areas such as Banksia, Forest, Simpson and Wilga Streets, while officers have handed out information packages to at-risk families, educating them on the risks of stealing vehicles.
The Traffic and Highway Patrol has also been tasked to focus on high crime areas.
Some of the other measures undertaken include supporting drug education programs in schools, the introduction of the CLONTARF program into the Tumut High School through inter-agency cooperation and funding, installing vehicle barriers in the Tumut Common to deter anti-social behaviour and working with employers to assist at risk children to get jobs through the Rise Up Program run by the PCYC).
Local police have also initiated Youth Action Meetings in the Riverina Policing District which identify at-risk children and aim to work with other agencies to reduce the risk by supporting them more effectively and in a coordinated way.
More broadly, the police have utilised Riverina Policing District Resources to saturate high vehicle theft areas in unmarked vehicles.
Insp. Radford said police had charged and prosecuted numerous young offenders for vehicle and property theft.
Police have been encouraging people to make themselves ‘harder targets’ by ensuring their vehicles are locked, securing their homes to prevent the theft of car keys, asking people not to leave keys in their cars or valuables visible.
“We have also been lobbying the local council to install CCTV in our towns to aid investigations and deter opportunistic crime,” he said.
“In 2019 we will continue to work strategically to target these crime categories and look for opportunities to work with other agencies and the Riverina Police Districts ‘muscle’ to drive crime and fear of crime down.
“Our pro-activity in relation to Mobile RBT in high crime areas and running pro active operations targeting drug supply, firearms theft and road trauma will continue in 2019.
“With community support and a clear focus we are confident that we can drive crime down and keep our towns safe.”