By HARRY CLARKE
QUEENSLAND’S Western Downs region carries the unflattering statistic of having one of the highest rates of firearm theft in the state, as police and Crime Stoppers announce a crackdown on illegal weapons.
Detectives from Queensland police’s Firearms and Cannabis Team have joined Crime Stoppers on a tour of rural Queensland to announce the second phase of a statewide blitz on gun crime.
The campaign over the previous six months resulted in 2,300 weapons being surrendered as part of a permanent national amnesty.
Authorities say there are an estimated 260,000 firearms circulating around the country, many of which are stolen from rural properties and sold on the black market to organised crime gangs such as bikies.
Despite its low population compared to other regions, the Western Downs recorded more than 65 weapons offences over the past year.
Detective Snr Sgt Tony Parsons from the Firearms and Cannabis Team said the region had one of the highest rates of weapons theft in the state.
“Rural areas like the Western Downs have a greater rate of gun ownership per population compared to urban areas by simple fact of the nature of occupations and lifestyle,” he said.
“The Crime Stoppers campaign provides an avenue for the community to take some responsibility in combatting the illicit firearms market through providing information to Crime Stoppers.
“This information from the public enables investigators to take action and remove these firearms from people in the community who should not have them and who are looking to harm others.
“The local community is vital in assisting investigators to locate and seize illicit firearms. We all have an important role to play to ensure illicit firearms do not get into the hands of criminals.”
Senior Constable Dan O’Hara, the Dalby-based Crime Prevention Coordinator for Western Downs Patrol Group, said lack of security on rural properties helped to enable weapons theft.
“Because this is a rural area we like to try and educate people on the proper way to secure their firearms, making sure that they’re kept locked in a safe and that the bolt, magazine and ammunitions are stored separately to the gun,” he said.
“The source of a lot of illegal firearms is thefts from rural properties due to their isolation. A lot of these properties are often unoccupied, which can make them a soft target.
“Weapons can enter the illegal black market and be used in armed hold ups, and the last thing we want to see is them being used against the police.”
Being caught with an unregistered or illegal firearm outside amnesty conditions could result in a fine of up to $66,725, up to 13 years in jail, and a criminal record.
The public can provide information about illegal weapons to police anonymously by calling Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.