15 October 2018

Annual police report sees sharp rise in organised crime, car thefts, use of tasers

| Lachlan Roberts
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There has been a sharp increase in the use of tasers by police officers, organised crime and car thefts in the nation’s capital according to ACT Policing’s annual report.

The annual report released this afternoon (15 October) said the period has seen an increase in serious and organised criminal activity, a 10 per cent increase in car thefts and a 342 per cent increase in the use of tasers compared to last year.

The 2017-18 ACT Policing Annual Report has revealed 199 reports of the use of tasers while the overall use of force reports decreased in 2017-18 by about 8.5 per cent compared to 2016-17 figures, including the use of batons (down 53 per cent), pepper spray (down 24 per cent) and handcuffs (down 17 per cent).

The report suggests the increase in the use of tasers could be attributed to more police officers being issued the weapons with a rollout over the year of an extra 281 tasers. The increase of the use of tasers, which includes drawing and aiming the weapon, comes as the ACT Coroner’s Court will hear an inquest into the death of Anthony Caristo, who died after being tasered by police at his Waramanga home in November last year.

The report also found an increase in organised crime activity and an escalation in violent crime involving criminal gangs.

As a result of the bolstered Taskforce Nemesis with additional funding for one forensic accountant and one surveillance team member, as well as enhanced equipment and specialised training, there was a significant operational success in 2017–18 including the seizure of 1,289 firearms (including the Firearm Amnesty), 1,515 illicit drugs seizures and over $13 million in criminal assets and proceeds of crime.

During this period, ACT Policing also utilised coercive hearings as a mechanism to strip the wealth from those involved in serious and organised crime.

Nemesis also laid 107 charges related to criminal gang activity, the execution of 93 search warrants, and the seizure of 28 firearms from criminal gang members and associates.

The annual report has also found there had been a 10.9 per cent increase in motor vehicle thefts in the ACT, with 1,465 thefts in the past financial year.

The majority of vehicles stolen throughout 2017–18 were manufactured in the late 1990s and early 2000s because the vehicles had less security technology than their modern equivalents. The report said the theft of motor vehicles can be utilised as an enabler for other crimes, with police seeing a number of stolen vehicles used in aggravated robberies and drive-by shootings.

While police said there was an increase in motor vehicle theft offences during 2017–18, long-term trends show that motor vehicle theft offences have decreased by 29.6 per cent in the last ten years.

The report also found the creation of a flexible Crime Disruption Team to address priority crime trends as they arise has had an immediate impact on crime trends in property crime. In particular, a spike in aggravated robberies on licenced premises during 2017 has been addressed and it has now been over six months since the last offence of this specific type.

In the foreword, outgoing Chief Police Officer Justine Saunders said the demand for policing services had remained high in the past financial year.

“Over the last five years incidents of a critical and time important nature, requiring a response from ACT Policing have increased by over 30 per cent. In response to the increasing demand for policing service and emerging challenges in an ever complex operating environment, ACT Policing has continued to evolve and adapt,” she said.

Overall, authorities received 29,291 triple-0 calls, police took 1,050 intoxicated people into custody and attended 2,697 family violence incidents, according to the report.

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