New unit targeting arsonists launched

A STATEWIDE effort to crack down on arsonists has seen the introduction of a new specialist police group to target high-risk areas.

According to a statement from Premier Ted Baillieu’s office, 150 highly trained bushfire, arson and explosives liaison officers would form the new strategic group within Victoria Police, in line with Fire Action Week, which was launched on Monday.

“The role of the BAELOs will include investigations, providing advice to other police members and maintaining an understanding of the trends, issues and concerns within their local areas,” Mr Baillieu said.

“Across Victoria, these specially trained officers will strengthen arson prevention operations by providing expertise to local police, and assistance with prevention, intelligence and enforcement.”

According to Police and Emergency Services Minister Peter Ryan, in 2011, there were more than 3000 arson-related offences in Victoria.

The maximum penalty for arson causing death in Victoria is 25 years imprisonment.

Victoria Police’s Operation Firesetter, an arson deterrent and detection operation targeting high-risk areas through the November to April bushfire season, also began on Monday.

Mr Baillieu reminded residents local information and reports of suspicious activity were crucial to preventing arson.

Anyone who has information on bushfire arson should phone Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or report any suspicious behaviour by phoning triple zero (000).