DESPITE the seemingly large amount of car fires this year, statistics show the number is actually dropping, though the cost to victims and authorities remains the same.
The statistics, obtained by The Courier, reveal that in the last five years the number of car fires increased dramatically but has dropped slightly in the past year.
According to the Crime Statistics Agency, in the period from April 2014 to March 2015 there were 24 car fires across Ballarat. The following year there were 55, then 63 the following year and 70 the year after that.
From April 2018 to March 2019 there were 65 car fires and police expect the number to continue to drop.
Inspector Trevor Cornwill said police had determined that there were a small number of offenders committing the majority of crimes and had targeted several of those individuals, who have since been prosecuted.
He said a pattern of behaviour called poly-offending had been seen in previous years and involved offenders breaking into houses to steal keys and then cars in order to commit other offences before burning them out - but this has decreased.
"We expect that by concentrating on the number of individuals who are committing the offences, the crimes should remain at the same level or hopefully continue to decrease," he said.
He said there had been a reduction in the number of burglaries in Ballarat, which has resulted in a flow-on effect with a reduction in the theft of cars and then the number of cars which had been set fire to.
There was a spate of cars being damaged in public places this year, including at railway and community car parks, but these offences have also dropped.
Though the number of car fires have dropped slightly, responding to car fires still takes up valuable resources.
District 15 duty officer Gavin Hope said responding to car fires took firefighting resources away from other potential emergency situations.
"While out trying to find a car in the bush it's taking us away from core activities like responding to road accidents, structure fires and medical situations," he said.
Mr Hope said car fires were not accidental but intentional acts of arson that take up the time of both volunteer and paid firefighters.
"They take our volunteer firefighters away from work and home and our paid firefighters away from potentially life threatening incidents to cars dumped in the forest."
He said car fires not only caused damage to people's lives by robbing victims of their means of transportation but also to the surrounding environment where they had been burned, such as forests and pine plantations, as well as causing damage to firefighting resources.
There have been a number of instances where fire trucks have become bogged while responding to the fires and so semi trailers had to be called to pull them out.
Mr Hope said it was not only disappointing that they were continuing but also posed grave danger in the summer time as they could result in a "major bush fire disaster".
Inspector Cornwill reminded residents that vehicle offences are mostly crimes of opportunity.
"We want to remind people to secure vehicles in a locked garage and not to be tempted to leave keys hanging by the back door," he said.
"These are crimes of opportunity with the offenders trying for unopened doors so ensure your doors are locked and your keys are in a safe place to reduce the chances of your vehicle being stolen."
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