Bushfire opportunists

ARARAT - Police are warning those living in bushfire affected areas of the Grampians and Black Range to be on alert for suspicious activity, with properties left vacant vulnerable to opportunistic thieves.

Wimmera and Northern Grampians Crime Prevention Officer Leading Senior Constable Eddy MacDonald said the recent bushfires in our area brought a lot of concern, worry and trauma to communities.

“Yet during this I saw some of the very best of people in our community, rallying together to help and support each other in time of need. That has made me very proud to be part of this community,” LSC MacDonald said.

“Unfortunately, some of us at this time are most vulnerable to being taken advantage of by unscrupulous individuals.

“Following the devastating Black Saturday fires I performed patrols in the affected areas in Gippsland where damaged and vacated rural properties were subject to thefts, this involved stealing of parts from farm machinery and equipment from farm shedding, stealing roaming livestock due to damaged fencing and thieves taking electrical copper wiring and metals from damaged houses.”

LSC MacDonald said if landowners see a suspicious vehicle or person in the area they should record as much detail as they can and provide that to police or Crime Stoppers.

“Be aware that vehicles towing trailers who are not regulars in your area are worth noting, this includes any vehicles such as station wagons and vans,” he said.

“Some ‘tradies’ may be coming into your area to do repair work, however police would still be interested in their vehicle registrations and descriptions.”

Electrical tools such as generators, chainsaws, post hole diggers and other similar equipment used for house and fencing repairs left in farm utes should be secured to avoid theft from motor vehicles, particularly if landowners are going into town or are leaving them on site.

“On another note, please keep in mind that placing pictures of damaged properties and addresses on social media allows some individuals to locate vulnerable properties,” LSC MacDonald said.

LSC MacDonald also asked landowners to be aware that there may also be persons coming into the affected areas sight seeing, but police would also be interested in recording their details.

“If you are considering visiting the affected areas please consider common decency and give those affected, time and space to rebuild,” he said.

LSC MacDonald said Consumer Affairs Victoria, Department of Justice has also provided information on how to pick a travelling con man,which may assist people rebuilding after fire damage.

The Department said Australians are being ripped off by travelling con men who pose as trades people offering cheap deals for ‘today only’.

Painting, roof repairs and sealing drive ways are common jobs travelling con men offer cheaply. Often they ask for money up front and then run, leaving the job unfinished or of a poor standard. Following are some things to look out for:

Be suspicious of people who:

● Knock on your door unexpectedly.

● Offer cheap deals for ‘today only’.

● Ask for cash up front.

● Offer to drive you to the bank to get the money for payment.

● Pressure you to accept their offer.

How to protect yourself from travelling con men: If you suspect a travelling con man is knocking at your door, don’t answer it, ask them to leave and if they don’t, call police.

Record as much information as you can, such as their name and vehicle registration plates and don’t be tempted by unexpected cheap deals - they may be much more expensive in the long run.

If you decide you need work done on your home, you should:

● Shop around for a quote that suits your needs and budget.

● Only use established trades people who provide written quotes.

● Ask for contact details of previous clients for references.

● Don’t sign any agreement until you are ready.

If a suspicious tradesperson knocks on your door, call the national hotline on 1300 133 408

Police are also interested in hearing from affected people, who are urged to provide further details such as the description of suspicious persons in your area or you can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

If you are a property victim of the fires and are seeking crime prevention advice please contact Leading Senior Constable Eddy MacDonald at the Ararat Police Station on 5355 1500.

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