Australia — Crime Stoppers has stepped up its latest bushfire arson awareness campaign Operation Firesetter by calling on the public to report any suspicious or irregular behaviour.
Victoria has so far avoided any major bushfires this fire season, yet Crime Stoppers executive director Peter Sprott said emergency services and the public need to remain vigilant.
It might sound like were being overly suspicious, but Victoria is one of the most fire prone areas in the world and the fact remains people are out there lighting fires, he said.
This is backed up by research that suggests between 30 and 50 per cent of bushfires are deliberately or recklessly lit and that theyre more common in urban-fringe areas.
The most serious fire-related offence is arson causing death, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years imprisonment.
Police patrols have intensified across the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula, with specialist support resources drawn from the Operational Response Unit.
Operation Firesetter is focusing on bushfire arson prone areas Victoria Police has identified as at risk in a state-wide and coordinated initiative, a police spokesperson said.
While police are actively patrolling, they need help from the community to catch bushfire arsonists. People who commit bushfire arson are not always strangers, they often live and work in the local community.
Mr Sprott said there was a greater reluctance to report suspicious behaviour in smaller communities.
People need to remember that calling Crime Stoppers is completely confidential and anonymous, all we want is the information you have, he said.
Torquay CFA captain Phil Campbell is appreciative of the assistance from police and Crime Stoppers.
It obviously makes a big difference if arsonists are caught, as it means theyre off the streets where they could be lighting fires, he said.
Anyone who witnesses suspicious activity should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.