‘OUR HOMES EASY PREY’

Campaspe News - - FRONT PAGE - By LANA MUR­PHY

FARM­ERS across the re­gion no longer feel safe in their homes.

It comes af­ter a spate of thefts on farms across Lock­ing­ton, Ba­mawm and Nan­neella, in­clud­ing last week’s ag­gra­vated bur­glary in Ba­mawm, which re­sulted in a mother be­ing at­tacked, fol­lowed by the po­lice pur­suit of a stolen ve­hi­cle, a car crash and the ar­rest of two peo­ple.

Po­lice are still look­ing for two more.

A po­lice spokes­woman said they were now in­ves­ti­gat­ing an in­ci­dent which oc­curred at a farm in Middleton Rd about 5am on Wed­nes­day.

De­tec­tive Se­nior Con­sta­ble Ber­nadette Wadding­ton of Cam­paspe Crime In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit said two men and two women al­legedly at­tended a farm where a mother suf­fered mi­nor in­juries af­ter be­ing as­saulted and prop­erty was stolen. A 26-year-old man be­ing held by the of­fend­ers even­tu­ally es­caped to a nearby farm­house.

A wo­man then al­legedly stole a Pa­jero from the prop­erty, with po­lice pur­su­ing her to Lock­ing­ton where she was ar­rested. Two oth­ers then fled in their own ve­hi­cle, which crashed in Prairie Rd, Rochester.

Lock­ing­ton dairy farmer James Hann was asleep in his home with his wife and three chil­dren aged four, eight and 12, when a car crashed through his bound­ary fence in the early hours of the morn­ing.

‘‘They woke us up and walked through my farm to get to the next one where they stole a ute,’’ he said.

‘‘This is get­ting out of con­trol, we ex­pect to be safe out here, it re­ally scares me hav­ing young kids, they shouldn’t be wit­nesses to this.

‘‘Our door wasn’t locked, they could’ve been in our house be­fore we re­alised.’’

Now he is forced to lock his doors and not trust any­one, he said.

The born-and-bred Lock­ing­ton man said farm crime was ‘‘def­i­nitely get­ting worse re­cently’’.

‘‘Grow­ing up I never saw any­thing like this,’’ he said.

‘‘We’re easy tar­gets out in the ru­ral ar­eas and crim­i­nals know that.

‘‘They aren’t be­ing pros­e­cuted, they get a slap on the wrist, we need them to know this isn’t tol­er­ated.

‘‘Our cops have limited re­sources, the sys­tem is fail­ing so it’s up to us as neigh­bours to keep an eye out for each other.’’

Neigh­bour Noel Mitchell was bal­ing hay at 5am Wed­nes­day when he saw car lights ap­proach­ing the Hann farm. ‘‘I thought it was un­usual,’’ he said. ‘‘They alerted us the in­trud­ers were on foot and rang ev­ery­one to lock ve­hi­cles and keep their keys out of ve­hi­cles, then they helped guide po­lice to what roads they went on.

‘‘We al­ways thought this place was com­pletely safe and re­li­able as far as trust­ing ev­ery­thing was all right but now we’re para­noid about who comes onto our prop­erty.

‘‘My ute was stolen out of a shed on July 21 and we still don’t know who it was. We need to utilise Neigh­bour­hood Watch as a tool and keep each other safe.’’

Mark Holt — whose ute was caught up in the Wed­nes­day crime spree — said it was frus­trat­ing.

‘‘I hadn’t aban­doned my ve­hi­cle I was still in the pad­dock but peo­ple will do what they want when they’re flee­ing a pur­suit. You don’t want to con­front them be­cause they could do any­thing, we just need to look out and make sure we’re writ­ing down num­ber plates,’’ he said.

Cam­paspe Shire coun­cil­lor Leigh Wil­son blamed drugs last week for the spike in crime. ‘‘Drugs are the cat­a­lyst for this, no doubt,” he said. “They’re steal­ing what­ever they can just to fuel their habit and with limited po­lice num­bers they’re get­ting away with it.” Det. Snr Con­sta­ble Wadding­ton said the ute was found in Kan­ga­roo Flat later that day. Fol­low-up in­ves­ti­ga­tions by de­tec­tives re­sulted in a 26-year-old Bendigo man be­ing ar­rested in Golden Square on Wed­nes­day night. He was charged with theft of a mo­tor car and bailed to ap­pear in Echuca Mag­is­trates Court on De­cem­ber 20. A Bendigo wo­man, 22, was charged with ag­gra­vated bur­glary and theft-re­lated of­fences and was due to ap­pear in Bendigo Mag­is­trates Court last week but failed to ap­pear and a war­rant was is­sued. On the week­end, Vic­to­ria Po­lice an­nounced it would spend $2 bil­lion across four years re­cruit­ing 2729 new front­line and spe­cial­ist po­lice, boost­ing over­all num­bers by 20 per cent. A spokesper­son said the Rochester pa­trol area had as­sis­tance from high­way pa­trol and put on ad­di­tional night shifts to con­duct proac­tive pa­trols re­cently. ‘‘Since they in­tro­duced these two ini­tia­tives they’ve had pos­i­tive re­sults in the ar­eas of road polic­ing, drug de­tec­tion and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of peo­ple wanted by po­lice,’’ a spokesper­son said.

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