Crime figures down but beware of complacency

ALTHOUGH statistics indicate crime rates are down across most categories, police have warned Kiama residents not to be complacent.

Following the release of the latest crime statistics released by the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, Lake Illawarra Commander Superintendent Wayne Starling reported the majority of crime areas throughout the command had decreased in the two years to December 2013.

Statewide, NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione said only two major categories have increased during the past two years - indecent assault, acts of indecency and other sexual offences (up 7.8 per cent) and fraud (up 13.2 per cent).

Superintendent Starling said the increase in fraud offences, such as fail to pays at service stations and credit card fraud, was a worrying trend within the command. Fraud offences within the Kiama LGA have increased by 29.5 per cent from five years ago.

However, according to the report, unlike previous years, the rise in fraud statewide is mainly due to unauthorised use of credit cards rather than failing to pay for fuel at service stations.

The bureau said recorded incidents of failing to pay for petrol actually fell markedly in the final four months of 2013.

They reported that the fall is likely due to a change in police policy, rather than an actual fall in the incidence of the offence.

Since September 1, 2013, service stations have been required to report petrol theft by fax.

"This may have made it more difficult for some service stations to report petrol thefts," the bureau said.

"Recorded incidents of this offence dropped sharply after September 1."

Also, 24-month trend figures indicate a 55.8 per cent rise in malicious damage to property.

This ranks Kiama 119th out of 140 state LGAs with a population of more than 3000.

Figures during the same 24-month period indicated significant decreases in motor vehicle theft, stealing from motor vehicles and liquor offences.

"In Kiama, statistics are generally so low, numbers-wise, any offence seriously impacts on the percentages," Superintendent Starling said.

He said he had a zero-tolerance attitude towards crime.

"One of our greatest challenges in reducing crime in the command is we have become very complacent people," he said.

"[For example] steal from motor vehicles - there are car doors often unlocked. Purses, wallets left on the seat or in sight. Also, many people are still not locking their houses.

"Our goal is to reduce crime continuously, but police can't do it on their own. We need the assistance of the community."

Superintendent Starling said they had been recently alerted to an offender breaking into homes, following a break-in at Kiama's Cedar Ridge Road earlier this month.

He also noted that incidents, such as three malicious damages on April 14-15 in Shoalhaven/Terralong and Terralong/Manning streets, were rare occurrences.

He said vigilance was a key part of the crime-prevention process.

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