CMC calls for public vigilance to prevent rise in organised property crime — 29.11.2012
The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is urging Queenslanders to help thwart organised property crime, warning that cars and heavy machinery are likely to top the hit list over the next two to three years.
Assistant Commissioner, Crime, Kathleen Florian today called for public vigilance, as the CMC released a strategic intelligence paper, Organised property crime in Queensland (PDF).
The paper focuses on the property offences that organised crime groups (OCGs) are most likely to be involved in. Separate targeted versions have been provided to government and law enforcement agencies.
‘The warning signs are there that certain areas of property crime are vulnerable, with criminals expected to capitalise on the state’s mining boom and infrastructure projects,’ Ms Florian said.
‘The good news is that all Queenslanders can play a part in stopping organised crime in its tracks.
‘By helping to prevent these crimes, Queenslanders can spare themselves heartache, help to keep insurance premiums down and help to cut off a source of income for OCGs.’
The paper forecasts trends in four areas of property crime: theft of motor vehicles (including older models for sale as scrap metal and a growing market for stolen parts); heavy equipment (including excavators, tractors, front-end loaders, forklifts and skid steer loaders); boats (covering a wide range of recreational marine craft including dinghies, luxury vessels and jet skis); and copper.
Ms Florian said motor vehicles and heavy equipment were at most risk of organised theft, primarily due to their profitability and the fact they were often ‘soft targets’.
Profit-motivated heavy equipment theft has increased by 75 per cent since 2007 (from 132 to 231 thefts), and it’s believed organised criminals are responsible for more than 40 per cent of all thefts. Profit-motivated motor vehicle thefts rose by more than 30 per cent last year (from 42 thefts per 100 000 registrations in 2010 to 56 in 2011). Up to a fifth of all vehicle thefts in Queensland are considered ‘profit motivated’, and therefore could be the work of OCGs.
Ms Florian said members of the public and business owners could best help to prevent organised thefts by ensuring their cars or heavy machinery weren’t ‘soft targets’. ‘Soft targets’ include cars left unlocked or unsecure (for example parked on the street or in poorly lit areas with keys easily accessible and with inadequate security systems) and heavy equipment kept in isolated or unsecure locations (such as unobserved worksites), often with one ‘master key’ used to operate multiple pieces of equipment. See figure 4 on page 11 of the intelligence paper for tips on crime prevention techniques for vehicle and business owners.
Ms Florian said more complex challenges included weaknesses in product identification and registration practices (especially for heavy equipment and boats) and difficulties experienced by law enforcement in investigating and prosecuting offenders.
CMC intelligence identified that one factor contributing to organised motor vehicle thefts was well-established connections between OCG members and their associates, and some parts of the auto industry (including towing companies, scrap metal yards and smash repairers). These connections in the auto industry are believed to facilitate the crimes in a variety of ways, including by allowing stolen vehicles to be sold for parts and scrap metal, or by transporting stolen vehicles.
The intelligence also shows that some OCG members are either employed in or have links to the mining and construction industries, giving them direct access to sites and/or inside information.
However, Ms Florian cautioned that there was no indication that organised criminal involvement in the auto, mining and construction industries was widespread or entrenched.
‘What we know is that organised criminals will always seek out “insiders” to help facilitate their crimes,’ she said.
‘They’re well-connected, highly flexible and rarely focus on one area of criminal activity.
‘There are also suggestions that the expansion of the mining and construction industries in Queensland has helped to create a large and often vulnerable market for stolen heavy equipment (both supply and demand), and it’s possible that offences are being committed to fill orders for specific equipment and parts.
‘If these industries grow over the next few years, it’s likely that organised heavy equipment theft will also continue to increase.’
While Ms Florian urged all Queenslanders to take action to safeguard their property, she said organised vehicle theft was concentrated in the south-east corner. Not surprisingly, she said, organised heavy equipment theft occurred mostly in rural and regional areas, with particular hotspots including Toowoomba, Dalby, Mackay and Rockhampton. Boat theft occurred predominantly in the south-east, especially on the Gold Coast.
On the topic of boat theft, CMC intelligence indicates that despite the ‘significant involvement’ of organised groups in these offences, this organised activity is not widespread in Queensland, with a few networks believed to be responsible for a relatively large number of thefts. However, according to intelligence, there is potential for criminal groups to further exploit this market.
Finally, most copper thefts in Queensland were found to be ‘opportunistic and unsophisticated’, with the CMC receiving no reports that ‘traditional’ OCGs were involved. Despite the low-level risk of infiltration by organised criminals, this area of property crime will continue to be monitored over the next few years to ensure overseas trends are not mirrored in Queensland and to safeguard the public from potential health and economic concerns associated with copper theft.
For further information or to request an interview with Kathleen Florian, please contact the CMC's media unit on (07) 3360 6000.