In a five-part campaign titled 'The Burning Issue', the Central Western Daily is exploring the troubling volume of car thefts and fires in our city, and seeking answers and solutions from those in power. This is the first story in the series, examining the breadth of the issue ...
Break and enter thefts, criminals looking for convenient transport, insurance scams and even domestic incidents are among the range of reasons police believe at least 30 cars have been torched in Orange in the past few months.
Central West Police District crime manager Detective Inspector Bruce Grassick has revealed just how wide the police net is spreading to stop the vehicle blazes.
"We don't believe it's one group, we believe there's multiple parties involved," he said.
He said one factor was thieves who broke into houses and stole a car from the property to get away.
"We believe that some of them are relating to other crimes like break and enters [of houses] and those stolen cars are attributed to those break and enters and subsequently burn after those break and enters," he said.
We believe there's multiple parties involved.Detective Inspector Bruce Grassick
"There's others that are randomly torched but that's only a very small percentage of the crimes that we are investigating at the moment."
Inspector Grassick said police believed the reason behind one car being set alight in Orange in the past few weeks was related to a domestic incident.
And he said not all of the cars involved were stolen.
"We've had insurance scams stemming from these types of crimes," he said.
"So when it gets sensationalised for whatever reason through Facebook or the media and they see an opportunity to actually burn a car themselves and claim it on insurance they're doing that as well.
MAP: Some of the car fires in Orange in 2019 ...
"We actually investigate and charge people in relation to insurance crimes. Not this year, but certainly in the past we've done that."
And some cases have related to cars being stripped of parts for on-selling.
"[About]18 months ago, they were taking some parts off the vehicles, some steering wheels and a couple of other bits and pieces. That's when we ran [a strikeforce] and we charged a number of people. For most part we haven't seen a lot of that but it does happen as well," he said.
Inspector Grassick said there was little evidence cars were being stolen for joyriding and ending up burnt.
"We haven't really seen a link to joyriding to being the most specific reason for these most recent crimes. It can be an element to it," he said.
One of those individuals told us she was bored so she went out and lit cars.Detective Inspector Bruce Grassick
However, he said some burnt-out cars had been stolen so the thieves could drive to a different location.
"Sometimes they are actually travelling from different locations, from Dubbo to here and vice versa, it could be to further crimes or it could be to visit people," he said.
"We had one stolen from the hospital because they were visiting a crook in the hospital and they stole a car from the hospital to get to the location they had to get to."
Inspector Grassick said two people from Dubbo were arrested after a spike in car fires in Orange last December-January.
And he said one person charged over car fires at the same time had a simple reason for her involvement.
"One of those individuals told us she was bored so she went out and lit cars," he said.
Inspector Grassick said police are throwing serious resources at the investigations.
He said Orange detectives were heading the investigation backed up by resources including both Orange-based and regional pro-active investigation teams, the Bathurst Regional Enforcement Squad, the Forensic Evidence and Technical Services team from Bathurst plus general duties officers.
Police are now seizing every burnt-out car for forensic examination.
He said there was a misconception the culprits were all juveniles. Instead he said they covered a range of ages.
And he said while the situation was serious now, crime rates in Orange were down on previous years.
"Those crime rates have dropped dramatically in the last three years. We're actually in a far better position than we were three years ago."
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