YOUNG people torching cars and dumping them in state forests have driven a spike in arson cases in Ballarat, police say.
Ballarat’s police service area recorded the second highest number of arson offences in the state between March and April this year behind Hume.
A total of 207 arson offences were recorded in the Ballarat PSA between March and April – an 128 per cent increase from the same period last year. Hume topped the state – recording a massive 459 offences, up by 76 per cent from 260.
Ballarat local government area recorded 174 offences, with Pyrenees (also part of the PSA) recording 33.
Inspector Bruce Thomas said burnt out cars accounted for 50 per cent of all arson offences in the Ballarat area.
The trend – of stealing and burning out cars – had significantly increased since this time last year, he said.
“There has been a trend over recent months of offenders stealing cars, dumping them and lighting them on fire.
“We’ve also seen some instances of people lighting haystacks on rural properties,” Inspector Thomas said.
Inspector Thomas said this alarming trend was being driven by a surge in offenders burning cars that had been stolen and used to commit other crimes. The offenders are overwhelmingly young and overwhelmingly male.
“The offenders being caught are being charged for a series of offences – theft of motor vehicle, burglary, theft from motor vehicle and deception,” Inspector Thomas said.
“The majority of vehicles are stolen cars that are utilised to commit other crimes … they are dumped in the forests in Canadian and Mount Helen.”
Police are urging residents to “target harden” their vehicles by locking them up and storing the keys safely.
Police are continuing to warn offenders arson is very serious offense that carries serious penalties.
“This criminal behaviour poses a very real threat to the community,” he said. Report suspicious behaviour to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
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