ACT News


Firebomb victim points finger at kids

A security guard whose $40,000 Ford Ranger went up in flames on Tuesday night is the latest Canberran to fall foul of car firebombers who have struck almost 140 times in just over a year.

ACT Policing says arsonists torched 130 vehicles in 2012, and Fairfax Media is aware of up to another five that have been burnt out since January 1.

While police say stolen and abandoned vehicles account for the bulk of the fires, three of the January attacks involved cars outside homes or in a public car park.

Calwell security guard Steve Gill says the parents of children, some as young as 11 or 12, who roam the streets in gangs late at night, have to accept much of the blame.

''They either don't know where their children are or just don't care,'' he said. ''In security we see them [children] out on their bicycles [late at night] all the time.''

While he can't be sure juvenile delinquents destroyed his car, which had been expensively modified for security work, it is his judgment after 20 years working security on the streets of Canberra. ''I've seen young kids, who obviously haven't been home to bed, out and about at 5am,'' he said. ''They know the law can't touch them [because they are too young to prosecute] and that their parents have no rights over them. If I'd caught the person who did this and given them a smack, I would have been the one being charged.''


Braidwood sculptor Victoria Royds said an arson attack was the last thing she had been expecting when she drove her mother's 2004 Nissan Patrol farm utility into town for the opening of a joint exhibition at the Belconnen Arts Centre on Friday.

''I wasn't even aware this [car fires] had been a problem,'' she said.

Ms Royds, who had used the utility to transport her ''Blue Isis'' to the centre, left it in the car park when she went out for dinner with friends. At 3am on Saturday, her phone rang. It was ACT Policing saying the car was ablaze.

Mr Gill and Ms Royds say their lives have been turned upside down by the stupid and irresponsible actions of others.

ACT Policing said that of the 130 vehicles destroyed by arson in 2012, 57 had been stolen. ''The [57] arson-affected stolen vehicles are only those which have been reported to police and recovered,'' a spokesman said. ''It is likely a significant proportion of the remaining arson-affected vehicles are either stolen and unreported and/or abandoned and/or fire-affected through the result of arson in a related area [garage/carport/bush/grassland, etc.].''

While Mr Gill suspects school-aged children to be involved in the arson attacks, there appears to be no direct correlation between school holidays and the number of incidents of firebombing. Last May, for example, 19 vehicles - the highest monthly total - were deliberately torched, and it was not a holiday month. And the winter months of June, July and August all recorded above-average numbers of such attacks.

Individuals responsible for the firebombing offences risk serious jail time if they are caught. ACT Policing said arson carried a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail.