While we all love a good community story to lift our spirits, one infuriating category of crime has crept into Ballarat's news for the vast majority of 2019, with barely a week passing without another incident.
The frequency of car theft and subsequent incineration of the cars was at times shocking, with multiple instances of emergency services having to run around all over the region in a single day to deal with car fires.
But if the frequency of the seemingly low-level crime seems to diminish their significance, what doesn't change is the impact it has on the individuals who are the victims of each and every theft, many who are left without their primary modes of transport.
While some may suppose insurance will cover such theft or public transport can provide a solution to victims, one only has to look at the lasting impact on these individuals to see how it can be devastating.
Take the Dridan family for instance. In late July, the Dridan's had their family ute stolen and subsequently set alight, leaving father Luke devastated.
The incident meant Luke would now struggle to take his son Blake, who has severe aplastic anaemia, a cancer with which the body fails to produce enough blood cells, to the Royal Children's Hospital in Melbourne.
"To think people can do that sort of thing so close to home," Luke told The Courier after the incident.
"You'd like to distance yourself from that sort of behaviour but it goes to show there's people that do that sort of stuff, and they don't think about the repercussions for the people they're doing it to."
The Dridan's ordeal was similar to that of grandmother and refugee advocate Carmel Kavanagh, whose 2001 model Toyota Corolla was stolen from her driveway in Newington as she was warming it up before driving to church on Sunday morning.
Without her car, Mrs Kavanagh's ability to drop off supplies and help other community members is diminished.
She said she and her husband were "trusting, country people".
"For people working in the community, it makes a difference to not have your car - now I can't take older people around and I can't take my grandchildren out," Mrs Kavanagh said.
Mrs Kavanagh's car was ultimately found by firefighters in Canadian near a mindshift completely engulfed in flames.
For the Dridan's and for Mrs Cavanagh, the sanctity of their own properties was not enough to protect them from offenders, an issue which was highlighted by Ballarat's 2019 crime statistics.
Theft represents the biggest problem for police, especially around motor vehicles, with a 74.55 per cent increase from last year.
Theft from motor vehicles represents 16 per cent of Ballarat's total recorded crimes.
As we look forward to 2020, police are already sending messages to the community to help keep their vehicles safe, wherever they are.
After a run of stolen cars and car fires hit Ballarat early in 2019, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Argall pleaded for the public to help protect themselves from such incidents by being more careful with their belongings.
"Ensuring your car, garage and homes are locked goes a long way," he said.
"These offenders are often opportunistic crooks who will check if you've left your car unlocked or home unlocked. They'll just keep searching until they can't get any further and then go to the next home."
As the police look for the public to do their part in helping, their renewed response to the issue was put on display towards the end of the year.
After a vehicle was allegedly stolen and torched in December, it took police only a matter of hours to find the alleged perpetrators thanks to a swift response.
A Ballarat Crime Investigation Unit spokesperson told The Courier after the incident police will use every resource at their disposal to catch offenders.
"We're taking these crimes very seriously and are taking a more strategic approach including the set up of committees around the theft of motorcars," they said.
"The plan is to send the message out there that we're going to keep going and we're going to stop crime in this area."
Calling in resources such as the air wing (helicopter) from Melbourne and approaching similar incidents in a similar way in 2020 could potentially go a long way in reducing the amount of car thefts and car fires.
Looking forward, it's impossible to say what is going to happen with Ballarat's car theft and car fire issue.
Recidivist offenders dominate the numbers in terms who are committing these crimes and police are aware of that.
Greater public awareness of how to properly protect themselves and a highlighted sense of importance and urgency by police in calling for resources to stop these offenders should pave the way for less thefts in 2020, but only time will tell.
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