INCREASING instances of burglaries targeting firearms in rural areas has prompted Bendigo police to ramp up its random inspections of firearm owners.
The burglary of five firearms from a rural Muckleford address on the weekend was the latest in a growing trend in central Victoria.
Sergeant Steve Rainey, of Bendigo police, said taking preventative measures to slow gun theft could help to stop more crime further down the track.
He said police and gun owners had a responsibility to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals.
“We get reports of people casing out country properties regularly – and the burglaries are becoming quite brazen,” Sergeant Rainey said.
“Just because people aren’t living in the CBD of Bendigo, and are living on 20 acres in Sedgwick, Strathfieldsaye of Mandurang, doesn’t mean you don’t have to worry about theft.”
One way to decrease the risk of gun theft was through more frequent police inspections, he said.
There are specific storage requirements for each category of firearm in Victoria, requiring a safe which can be fixed to a wall. There are also strict requirements on the storage of ammunition and transporting firearms.
Sergeant Rainey said even if the guns appear completely secure, they could still be at risk during a burglary.
“Inspections will be becoming more random and more frequent,” he said.
“Just because it’s locked in a safe, doesn’t mean thieves don’t have the means to find them.
“Make sure the keys are well hidden. If you only use them once or twice a year, check them every few weeks anyway. If they are stolen and you haven’t noticed for months, it’s very difficult to follow up.”
Earlier this year, police recovered 12 stolen weapons including shotguns, rifles and a handgun. Fifteen had been reported stolen.
In February, a group of men forced their way into an Axedale property and stole five shotguns, two rifles and two air rifles.
They were caught weeks later during a raid on a Bendigo residence and have since been sentenced for the crime.