Turning the heat up on 70 firebugs
FIREBUGS are being put under close watch ahead of a potentially catastrophic bushfire season.
Police are making random house calls on 70 of the state’s worst firebugs and putting some under covert surveillance
The arson watch list, including detailed profiles on repeat or “high risk” offenders compiled by the Property Crime Squad’s Arson Unit as part of Strike Force Tronto, was sent to local police commands.
Officers then confront known fire-setters, often on blisteringly hot days when the fire risk is at extreme or catastrophic levels.
“We knock on their door and tell them: ‘Hey, we know today’s an extreme fire risk and we’re watching you’,” one police source said.
Police are also using “proactive covert” spy techniques to catch arsonists redhanded, as the bushfire season started early with almost 90 blazes raging across NSW last week.
Sources confirmed that about 70 known firebugs had been profiled for surveillance.
An average 6310 incidents of arson a year were reported by police over the past decade. But Strike Force Tronto’s system of profiling pyromaniacs and covert strikes appear to be slowly driving those numbers down — there were 5601 reports in the year to June 2017.
For firefighters, the enemy too often lies within.
Retained firefighter Joshua Lambkin, 28, was charged over four fires near Kurri Kurri in the Hunter Valley last month.
And volunteer firefighter Jamie Michael Clark, 30, was charged last week with lighting 18 fires which damaged homes in Tasmania.
Meanwhile, a homeless man was charged last week with starting three grass fires in Berowra, and Rural Fire Service investigators suspect that fires at Beacon Hill in Sydney’s north and Richmond Vale, in the Hunter, were also deliberately lit last week.
Property Crime Squad commander Detective Superintendent Murray Chapman said anyone caught deliberately lighting bushfires would be put before the court.
“Not only is deliberately lighting a bushfire illegal, it can be deadly,” Supt Chapman said.
“Thousands of volunteers, brave men and women, risk their lives each year to keep the community safe from the ravages of bushfires and the last thing they need is for someone to deliberately light a fire.”
Police Minister Troy Grant yesterday said: “Arson is a hideous crime which can have devastating impacts.
“If you engage in this kind of reckless behaviour, be warned — the police, with the support of our fireys, will be doing all they can to ensure you are held to account.”