The people responsible for stealing cars across Canberra and taking them for joyrides before setting them alight are working as a group, says the police union, following the arrest of four car thieves.
Last Friday (18 January), a 24-year-old Coombs woman faced court over a spate of car thefts dating back to last July. She was one of four people arrested by the Crime Disruption Team in the past week, all charged with similar crimes.
Australian Federal Police Association (AFPA) president Angela Smith said the group were “running red hot” for some time.
“The car fires were a real problem for ACT Policing. They made a concerted effort and they went out and found the people responsible and arrested four of them,” she said. “They were running red hot for a while, that little crew. It was a little group that was stealing them, joyriding them and setting them on fire.
“Now we need to make sure the courts support us and lock them away for some time.”
There were 56 reports of car fires across Canberra in December, nearly tripling the November total of 20, while a further 26 car fires have been reported this month.
So far this year, firefighters have put out car fires in Pearce, Giralang, Hughes, Lyneham, Majura, Red Hill, Phillip, Scullin, Greenway, Macgregor, Palmerston, Watson, Wanniassa, O’Connor, Duffy, Higgins, Braddon, Lyons, Hall and Torrens.
ACT Rural Fire Service chief officer Joe Murphy said there was a car that was set alight in the lower Cotter catchment area on Thursday morning (24 January), near where the Pierces Creek bushfire began. He is urging the car arsonists to stop and think of the damage a car fire in the dense bush can cause.
“Yesterday morning there was a car alight up near the Pierce’s Creek, just near the fire earlier on this season,” he said. “Please, folks, we can’t keep doing this. The car fires in bush areas pose a significant hazard to firefighters, the community and to the bush.”
ACT Policing Chief Police Officer Ray Johnson said the car fire yesterday had not been confirmed as a stolen vehicle and police would continue to focus on suspected or known arsonists and individuals who might be suspected or known car thieves.
Police have said there has been a spike in break-ins and car thefts across the ACT over the summer prompting a warning to Canberrans to do more to secure their properties. CPO Johnson said the ACT Policing is working hard to reduce the rate of stolen cars, which will, in turn, stop the number of car fires.