Tackling building site crime
Building contractors and local police are appealing for residents in developing estates to be their eyes and ears for crime at construction sites.
Residential estates in Warragul and Drouin have become hot spots for crime over the past 12 months with significant increases in burglaries and thefts from construction sites.
An initiative developed from meetings between building contractors and local police is set to target offenders through increased security and working closely with residents.
Warragul Police senior sergeant Duncan Bartley said police and contractors were working together to send a message to offenders that they were taking construction site crime seriously.
But, he said, the initiative more importantly focussed on community assistance in being the eyes and ears once contractors leave their sites.
Mr Bartley said residents already living in the estates were the key to police addressing the increasing trend in burglaries and thefts.
“If we work together and do this properly and get an early hit, it sends a message…it shows we are all on the same page and on top of it.
“We could see there was an increasing trend and hot spots so we wanted to gather the relevant players to solve it.
“By working together we can have a group think tank and develop prevention tools.
“We will conduct targeted patrols of hot spots but we need the information from contractors and residents,” he said.
Mr Bartley said 60 building sites a day were opening for development across the shire so police and the wider community needed to work together to prevent and address crime.
Meeting on site at Waterford Rise Warragul last week, builders and contractors said they could not put a value on the amount of property stolen from construction sites in the past six months.
Baw Baw CIU detective sergeant Gordon Hynd said thousands and thousands of dollars worth of household goods, copper pipe, building supplies, trades tools and power tools had been stolen in Warragul and Drouin.
Mr Hynd said detectives were urging building contractors to not only secure and remove all tools from sites, but also place identification marks on the tools.
He said during a recent arrest, a large quantity of stolen tools was recovered but there was no identification.
“Anything that’s not nailed down they will take,” he said.
Leigh Allchin of Allchin Builders said the most vulnerable time for burglaries and thefts was during the week of handover of new homes.
Ovens, kitchen appliances, electrical and light fittings were all highly sought after by offenders, which Mr Allchin said were hot property during the week of handover.
But he said building materials also were targeted throughout builds, including timber, roof sheets and windows.
David Melbourne of Hotondo Homes said a lot of the crimes were not even reported.
He said contractors regularly arrived on site to find something minor stolen, or something stolen from vehicles on site, that might not have a lot of value but can disrupt work progressing.
“It’s really important for us (all contractors) and people in the estates to take photographs and report things that aren’t right.
“We have to be vigilant. It’s all about getting the residents involved, people that are living here already,” Mr Melbourne said.
Baw Baw Shire also is supporting the initiative to increase security at residential development sites.
Grants and advocacy officer Tim Sweeney attended last week’s meeting to discuss opportunities for the shire to install CCTV cameras at key locations in buildings areas.
Mr Sweeney suggested portable security cameras that could move around construction sites or hot spots.
Mr Hynd said cameras were often a key start to an avenue of inquiry for police.
He said CCTV footage or information from residents about vehicles, registrations plates or suspicious activity assisted with investigations.
Meeting on site at Waterford Rise last week to discuss increased security initiatives at construction sites are (from left) Bill Petrie (Auscivil), Baw Baw CIU detective sergeant Gordon Hynd, Warragul Police senior sergeant Duncan Bartley, Mick Heenan (Heenan’s Plumbing), David Melbourne (Hotondo Homes), sergeant Dany Carbonneau, Leigh Allchin (Allchin Builders) and Tim Sweeney (Baw Baw Shire).