Crack squad targets firebugs

Crack squad targets firebugs

27 October 2008

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Australia — Firebugs beware – this crack team of arson experts knows who you are and are out to get you.

With the bushfire season about to begin, The Daily Telegraph has learned that a 17-member squad, backed by a team of fire investigators, has been created to hose down trouble before it begins.

They have already drawn up a list of known and suspected firebugs – including pictures or comfits of suspected arsonists, details of where they live, places they frequent and the type of vehicles they drive – and distributed them to police across NSW.

The team is also being briefed on any suspicious fire activity by local area commands across the state.

It has access to the NSW Fire Brigades and Rural Fire Service systems and monitors intelligence daily to identify unusual activity that may indicate a firebug at work.

The move, part of an offensive on arsonists who cause mayhem across NSW every year, comes as the state braces itself for what is predicted to be one of its worst fire seasons.

This has also led to Strike Force Tronto being retired.

Tronto had the power to draw all available resources from across NSW and all levels and sections of policing but was activated only if the bushfire met certain criteria – the main one being loss of life.

Police have not ruled out bringing Tronto out of retirement if the bushfire danger escalates.

The new team is housed within the property crime squad. It will be dedicated to investigating serious bushfires that result in loss of life or property or are suspected of having been deliberately lit.

Property crime squad commander Detective Superintendent Nicholas Bingham said the creation of the team was about getting specialists to the scene of a fire faster before valuable evidence was lost.

“It will be much faster,” he said.

“We’ll be doing only bushfires that come under certain criteria, but my team can be deployed immediately rather than waiting to see how bad the bushfire season is before activating Tronto.”

Supt Bingham said that although the team had 17 detectives trained in fire investigation assigned to it permanently, it would be able to call on a pool of 55 detectives if needed.

The property crime squad’s budget has been beefed up, and it has been given an additional four detectives as part of its new role in bushfire investigation.

“Officers under the property squad’s arson team are specially trained to investigate structural arson, so by utilising their specialist skills we can ensure a more effective investigation of bushfire arson,” Supt Bingham said.

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