Mr Baillieu said a team of 150 highly trained Bushfire, Arson and Explosives Liaison Officers (BAELOs) would form the new strategic group within Victoria Police, established to stamp out arson-related crimes.
“Across Victoria, these specially trained officers will strengthen arson prevention operations by providing expertise to local police, and assistance with prevention, intelligence and enforcement,” Mr Baillieu said.
“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 the creation of the BAELOs group delivered on the Coalition Government’s commitment to establishing a highly specialised and targeted arson-prevention team within Victoria Police.
“Arson is a horrific crime that can devastate our environment, destroy homes and properties and cause serious injury or the tragic loss of life, and the delivery of highly specialised resources will help in averting arson attacks in the future,” Mr Baillieu said.
Mr Ryan said the officers would receive specialist training through the Police Fire and
Explosives Investigations Course and would act as conduits for the Bushfire, Arson and Explosives Strategic Advisory Group, which oversees the strategic direction and planning of Victoria Police’s response to arson.
“There were more than 3,000 arson-related offences in Victoria in 2011, risking lives and property and drawing on valuable emergency response resources,” Mr Ryan said.
“The establishment of this group of Bushfire Arson and Explosives specialists will improve our capability around the prevention and detection of arson offences.
“This new body is similar to the Livestock and Farm Crime Specialist Group, which brings together specialist heads and subject matter consultants to address specific types of crimes.”
The BAELO model draws on best practice in arson prevention and detection from around Australia and internationally.
The initiative includes:
- formalised recognition of the expertise of arson-trained investigators through the
- Victoria Police Specialist Community of Practice framework;
- improved sharing of knowledge between investigators and external partners such as fire and emergency services, local community groups and research organisations;
- access to ongoing specialist training through Victoria Police, other Australian
- jurisdictions, state fire services and the Commonwealth Wildfire Arson Investigation
- Management Courses;
- improved capability around targeting high risk arson offenders (including recidivists)
- especially in regional areas;
- improved investigative interviewing skills, tailored to arson offenders;
- improved local bushfire arson control strategies which are informed by police intelligence reports and academic research data; and
- better bushfire arson community awareness programs in the lead up to fire seasons.
Today also marks the start of Victoria Police’s Operation Firesetter, an overt arson deterrent and detection operation that targets high risk areas at high risk times.
“Operation Firesetter provides dedicated resources, drawn from the Operations Response Unit and local Police Service Areas, to crack down on arsonists through highly visible police patrols, particularly on high fire risk days,” Mr Baillieu said.
“Police will also use criminal histories and other intelligence sources to identify and monitor potential arsonists across the state.
“Local information and reports of suspicious activity are also crucial to preventing arson and I encourage anyone who suspects someone of bushfire arson to call Crime Stoppers confidentially on 1800 333 000 or report any suspicious behaviour by calling triple zero (000),” Mr Baillieu said.
** Victorian Government media release **