Within weeks of launching a strike force to investigate the increase in property crimes around the region, police have arrested eight people and laid 20 charges.
Riverina Police District launched Strike Force Rubie as part of Operation Mongoose this year to investigate a small group of offenders committing property crimes and targeting elderly residents over the past month.
Investigators believe offenders are targeting cash, phones, and motor vehicles, which are being used to commit further offences in Wagga Wagga and surrounding suburbs.
Wagga police have arrested eight people and laid 20 charges for theft and property-related offences since the launch of the strike force.
Riverina Police District Commander Acting Superintendent Nadine Roberts says the elderly have become the target of property-related crimes.
“Unfortunately we are seeing our youth targeting the elderly, which is a significant problem,” Superintendent Roberts said.
“The vulnerable members of the community are making themselves vulnerable in relation to not always keeping their homes safe.
“The elderly residents are being targeted and that extends through the retirement villages … we are patrolling through the retirement villages 24 hours a day to ensure their safety.”
The Acting Superintendent said a team of dedicated specialist investigators, part of Strike Force Rubie, were working on apprehending the offenders and putting them before the court.
“Through our investigations, we know there is a small cohort of offenders and we know who they are,” she said.
“We also know that we do have the burden of proof and that’s why we have a dedicated specialist team of investigators to meet that burden of proof … to have a successful prosecution.”
Superintendent Roberts said since last August, Wagga had slowly and progressively seen an increase in property-related crimes targeting the elderly.
“This is a societal problem,” she said. “It’s a community problem. It’s a parental problem. It’s a whole of government problem, and that deserves a consistent approach to combating the problem.”
Detective Inspector Jill Gibson, of Riverina Police District, has been working with several community groups including Meals on Wheels to distribute safety pamphlets, with further tips for residents on how to best protect their homes and possessions.
“A few simple steps can protect your home, your property and yourself, so we encourage all homeowners to be proactive,” Insp Gibson said.
“Our homes should be a place where you and your family can enjoy safety and security. Criminals are opportunists and will target homes with poor home security.
“If you do need to leave windows open to get fresh air, buy a piece of dowel for the windowsill to stop opportunistic thieves from entering via an unlocked window.”
Top security tips for residents include:
- Lock all windows, doors, garages, and sheds
- Install sensor lights or home security systems where possible – and make sure they are turned on
- Don’t hide spare keys in well known locations such as under the front door mat
- Don’t leave belongings in clear sight if you’re not home.