EDITORIAL: No room for complacency on gun control
Almost 40 illegal firearms remain in the hands of criminals across central Victoria after being stolen over the past two years, raising concerns among Bendigo police they could be used in violent crime.
Police have appealed for assistance in locating the missing weapons following incidents in which a shotgun was fired through the front door of a house in Sternberg Street on December 17 and a man presented at Bendigo Health suffering a gunshot wound on November 27 last year.
We don’t want to see any of these firearms used in offences such as armed robberies or anyone being injured or potentially killed.
There was no one home at the address at the time of the December shooting and no one was injured but police say the wounded man in the November incident has been uncooperative.
“That victim remains tight-lipped,” Detective Leading Senior Constable Glen Fisher of the Bendigo Crime Investigation Unit said.
Investigations into both incidents are ongoing.
A total of 39 firearms which were stolen in the Bendigo area between January 2014 and December 2015 are yet to be recovered and Detective Leading Senior Constable Fisher said many more had been stolen during that time and subsequently recovered by police.
“In one instance there were eight firearms stolen in one incident,” he said.
“We still have 40 firearms in the last two years that have not been recovered, the investigation is still unsolved, at the same time there’s been many investigations and search warrants and intercepts and arrests that have led to the recovery of people in possession of prohibited firearms.”
Detective Leading Senior Constable Fisher urged anyone with information relating to the illegal possession of firearms to come forward.
“We’re not comfortable with one stolen firearm being out there, let alone 40 and we would like to advance some of these investigations with assistance from the public,” he said.
“We don’t want to see any of these firearms used in offences such as armed robberies or anyone being injured or potentially killed.
“I won’t be comfortable ’til there’s no stolen firearms out there.”
He said many people had come forward with information in the past but the number of guns still at large prompted the call for more information.
“People often give information that leads to solving these crimes,” he said.
“It’s just in these instances we’ve had a lack of information concerning these investigations and that’s why we’re revisiting them and making a further appeal.”
Detective Leading Senior Constable Fisher reminded responsible and licensed firearm users to ensure their firearms and ammunition were appropriately secured.
“Responsible members of the community should not be comfortable with it and therefore if they do have information, let us know,” he said.
“In other words, if there is a case of someone having a suspicion, belief or knowledge of any offences involving firearms and it hasn’t quite reached their level of discomfort, then take the time to consider what the stolen firearms could be used for in the future.”
In one instance police recovered a stolen gun safe in Lockwood which had been emptied of its contents, including two firearms and a quantity of ammunition.
“The guns and ammunition have been stolen from it and it’s just been dumped,” Detective Leading Senior Constable Fisher said.
Victoria Police Crime Command has established a proactive investigating team following the recent increase in firearms incidents across Victoria.
The proactive illicit firearms investigations team is based within the Purana Task Force with their primary focus being the disruption of the supply of firearms, with the intention of preventing shootings.
The team will investigate identified incidents of organised firearms trafficking and will seek to identify linkages between firearm related burglaries and organised crime groups.
The team works closely with regional police and the Armed Crime Squad and Santiago Task Force.
Anyone with information should contact the Bendigo Police Station on 5448 1300 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or visit www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.