By ZAIDA GLIBANOVIC
Five arrests: Firearms and drugs found
IMITATION firearms, ammunition, drugs, cash and stolen property have been seized, and five people were arrested, as police conducted a major operation across the Latrobe Valley last week.
In Operation Poseidon, Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit detectives and Crime Command’s VIPER Taskforce knocked on the doors of 20 homes between Tuesday, February 6 and Thursday, February 8.
During the course of the operation, police conducted 19 Firearm Prohibition Order (FPO) searches and a drug warrant across Gippsland.
The FPO scheme operates together with the existing prohibited person scheme to protect the community, and reduce firearm-related crime by targeting those who want to possess, use or carry firearms for unlawful purposes.
The police conducted 19 FPO searches within the region.
Throughout the operation, police seized trafficable quantities of GHB and other drugs, including cannabis and methylamphetamine.
Police also found various imitation firearms and cartridge ammunition, property allegedly stolen from burglaries including e-bikes, bank cards and copper wire, cash and a vehicle allegedly used in an evade.
Those arrested by police included:
A 32-year-old Morwell man arrested and charged with 10 offences including reckless conduct endangering life, evade police, unlicensed driving, possessing a drug of dependence, handling stolen goods and hindering police.
The charges relate to an incident where detectives from Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit were driving along Southern Road, Traralgon and observed a silver Ford Falcon sedan at about 2.45am on Sunday, February 4.
Police approached the vehicle before the driver allegedly accelerated and sped away from the scene. The alleged driver was seen travelling on the wrong side of the road and incorrectly through a roundabout. The man has subsequently been bailed to appear at Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, May 2;
On February 6, police executed a FPO search at a home in Newborough.
Police located and seized an imitation firearm and ammunition. Charges are expected to be laid against a 66-year-old man, and;
Detectives conducted an FPO search at a property in Morwell on February 7.
During the search, detectives allegedly located property that was stolen during an aggravated burglary – about $2500 cash, cannabis and methylamphetamine.
A 37-year-old Morwell man was arrested and charged with 11 offences, including handling stolen goods, dealing with the proceeds of crime and possessing methylamphetamine. He was bailed to appear at the Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court on Wednesday, May 1.
Once issued, an FPO remains in effect for 10 years for adults and five years for children, which is those between 14 and 17-years-of-age.
Detective Senior Sergeant, Trevor Vondrasek of the Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit said Operation Poseidon was successful.
“These operations keep the heat on those prohibited from possessing a firearm due to their criminal history and associations,” he said.
“Firearm Prohibition Orders are an important tool that make it difficult for these people to access, use and store firearms or be in areas where there are known to be firearms in order to keep the community safe.”
“These searchers are when an (FPO) application is granted … we have compliance searches to be conducted, or we can act on information – we can carry out a singular search if we need to.”
An FPO is made by police and prohibits a person over the age of 14 from acquiring, possessing, or carrying a firearm or firearm-related item. If served with an FPO, the subject must immediately surrender any firearm or firearm-related items. Once someone is subject to an FPO, they can have their homes or vehicles searched without a warrant at any time. FPO breaches carry prison sentences of up to 10 years.
“Anyone who breaches their Firearms Prohibition Order can expect a visit from us, and to be held accountable for putting others in harm’s way,” Det Snr Sgt Vondrasek said.
The special VIPER Taskforce was utilised to help local investigators search properties quickly and effectively.
“In this case, we were sort of relying (on doing) a number at a time and often, to do a search, it requires a fair few people to search through a premises, and premises could be large, could be a country property, it could be just a flat,” Det Snr Sgt Vondrasek said.
The Victoria Police consider the FPO a useful tool for keeping the community safe from illegal weapons and firearms.
“People we have FPOs against generally have (violent) backgrounds, carried weapons or (were) found in the possession of firearms and have been convicted at the court of firearms offences. So it basically allows us to search for those things just to make sure that those persons aren’t infringing those sorts of violent type offences,” Det Snr Sgt Vondrasek said.
“We can come through at any time, day or night with the FPO searches … if we carried out a search in this operation and in five days’ time we found out some more information in relation to a person with an FPO, we would act again.
“Our main prerogative is looking for these weapons and firearms. If we do find other things, we are entitled to seize those other things as we have.”
After a FPO is served, a police officer can search the FPO subject if reasonably required to determine whether the person is in possession of a firearm or firearm-related item. This power does not require a warrant.
“(The FPO) has enhanced the fact that it can be with certain criteria met, just either (a) compliance search or on information, and it’s a power that we can act on straight away,” Det Snr Sgt Vondrasek said.
Police will still issue search warrants if the person with an FPO is suspected of a wide range of illegal offences.
“We’ve always had to rely on a search warrant, and we still have search warrant provisions where an urgent search warrant (if required) in relation to something, and we suspect a number of offences at the same time,” Det Snr Sgt Vondrasek said.
A person has 28 days upon being served with a Firearm Prohibition Order to apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) to review the decision to make the order.
There has been a recent weapons crackdown in Victoria as the state government introduces the Firearms and Control of Weapons Amendment Bill to Parliament.
Under the new legislation, the FPO would go even further to improve police power, allowing them to search a person of interest in the street and direct them to a police station or another safe space for up to two hours to serve an order.
FPOs were first introduced in Victoria in May 2018 and have been used more than 2100 times.
Police Minister, Anthony Carbines, says this has forced criminals out of the shadows and into the light of day.
Among the new laws, the state government will implement stronger safeguards on the sale of machetes, given the recent machete attacks in Victoria.
The Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit wished to thank the VIPER Taskforce for its role in assisting local police with their weapons crackdown.
The police are also urging the public to call the Latrobe Crime Investigation Unit, their local police station or Crime Stoppers if they have any information on illegal firearms.
Morwell man dies in police custody
POLICE will prepare a report for the coroner following the death of a man who had been in police custody.
A 59-year-old man was arrested on Friday, February 2, in Morwell as part of an Australian Federal Police investigation.
The man was remanded in custody after his bail was revoked and lodged at Morwell Police Station before being transported to Dandenong Police Station.
He subsequently reported feeling unwell and disclosed to police he had consumed a large amount of non-prescription medication prior to being arrested.
The man was subsequently conveyed to hospital and died on Sunday, February 4.
Homicide squad detectives will prepare a report for the coroner and the investigation will be handled by the Professional Standards Command, which is standard procedure following a death in custody.
Man arrested after putting Air Wing at risk
POLICE have charged a man after a laser was allegedly pointed at the Police Air Wing on Wednesday night, (February 7).
The helicopter was flying above the Hazelwood North area about 9pm when a laser was allegedly shone at the aircraft several times.
Air Wing officers directed police on the ground to an address on Church Road in Hazelwood North shortly after.
Attending officers located a laser and arrested a 33-year-old Hazelwood North man at the premises.
He was interviewed and is expected to be charged on summons with interfering with a crew member in an aircraft, reckless conduct endangering life and possessing a prohibited weapon.
Police search for Wesley
INVESTIGATORS are appealing for public assistance to help locate missing man Wesley.
The 85-year-old man was last seen on Sunday, February 4 at about 9.30pm on Angus Street in Morwell.
There are concerns for Wesley’s wellbeing due to his age and his current medical condition.
Wesley is described as Caucasian in appearance, 180cm tall with a medium build and grey hair.
Wesley was travelling in a white Hyundai Terracan, registration 1LF6ZP, possibly towing a white popup tent caravan with a blue stripe.
He is known to frequent the Bass Coast and Wangaratta areas and may be looking for a caravan park.
Investigators have released images of Wesley and his vehicle in the hope that someone can provide information on his current whereabouts.
Anyone who sights Wesley is urged to contact Morwell Police Station on (03) 5131 5000.
Princes Highway incident
EMERGENCY responders were called out to a collision between two vehicles at the Coonoc Road turn off on the Princes Highway on Wednesday afternoon, February 7.
The incident was reported to have occurred at about 1.40pm in the eastbound lanes of the freeway.
Traffic was slow moving as emergency services assessed the drivers.
Both cars appeared to have suffered significant damage.
An Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said a man, believed to be in his 50s, was treated for a chest injury and taken to Latrobe Regional Hospital in a stable condition.
A man believed to be in his 80s and a woman believed to be in her 60s were also assessed but did not require emergency treatment or transport.