Police to target arsonists

BENDIGO police will be keeping an eye out for firebugs over the next few days as the temperature soars.

With the mercury forecast to climb to 40 degrees today, Operation Firesetter has kicked into gear.

Sergeant Mick McCrann from Bendigo police said the operation targeted known arsonists.

“We check their locations where fires have previously been set and we’ve also got additional patrols,” he said.

“We also work with the CFA and various other agencies.

“It’s all about cooperating with each other and getting the best response to any fires.”

Temperatures across the state are expected to hover at about 40 degrees until mid-next week and emergency services are bracing for  an extreme bushfire threat.

On Wednesday regional assistant commissioners and operational commanders met to discuss confirm strategies for the heatwave.

Assistant Commissioner Steve Fontana said police strategies would include raising community awareness and preparedness and having a visible presence in high-risk areas.

“We’re really focused on identifying high-risk individuals within the community and... not all of them are actually arsonists or have prior convictions for arson,” he said.

“We often get a lot of juveniles that are starting out to commit (crimes), set bushfires, or other people that have got no (criminal) background at all.

“I think it can be flawed to say that we just need to target people with convictions for arson because they’re not always the ones that are involved in these incidents.”

Meanwhile, the Crime Stoppers Anti-Bushfire Arson Roadshow is coming to Bendigo on January 15.

Crime Stoppers CEO Samantha Hunter will be joined by representatives from Bendigo police and the City of Greater Bendigo to encourage residents to report any suspected firebugs.

“Bushfire arson is a matter for the entire community,” she said.

Ms Hunter urged people to report suspicious behaviour to the police or by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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