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A name-and-shame campaign is targeting suspected local firebugs to stamp out “reckless and deliberate fire behaviour”.
The Crime Stoppers initiative follows a spate of suspicious blazes including a 70-hectare grassfire at Mannerim this week and a Christmas Eve arson attack on the Torquay home of former Big Brother contestant Heath Tournier.
The three-month campaign would publicise names and images of suspected fire offenders before targeting other criminals in later stages, said Crime Stoppers Victoria general manager Cathy Rhodes.
“Over the next three months CSV will name a number of wanted people and seek to identify a number of alleged offenders police want to speak to in relation to crime committed in Geelong and the surrounding area,” Ms Rhodes said.
“The community will be urged to review the images we release and report what they know confidentially to Crime Stoppers in a bid to help solve crime in the area.
Ms Rhodes urged public support of the campaign, which launched in Geelong with the support of police and local fire authorities.
“Recklessly causing a bushfire or grassfire is a crime with disastrous consequences – costing property, livelihoods and lives,” she said.
“If you know of anyone engaging in reckless fire behaviour, or have any information about reckless or deliberately lit fires, we urge you to make a report to Crime Stoppers confidentially.”
Crime Stoppers said “recklessly causing a bushfire” included disobeying fire restrictions, leaving campfires unattended, burning off without a permit, or using hot tools or machinery that emitted flames or sparks on total fire ban days
Penalties for causing a bushfire include up to 15 years imprisonment or fines over $36,000. The maximum penalty for arson resulting in death is 25 years’ imprisonment.
The campaign coincided with expectations of an “above-average fire season”, said the CFA’s local assistant chief officer, Rohan Luke.
The initiative and its timing underlined the “need for extreme caution” this summer, he said.
“Last weekend’s extreme weather conditions further highlight the need for vigilance, care and responsible behaviour.”
The campaign also reflected the CFA’s “zero tolerance” of fire threats, Mr Luke said.
“A fire started at any time of the year (and) which damages someone else’s property is a crime.”
The campaign, in conjunction with Geelong Police, began with a focus on fire but would widen next month include other crimes, said Acting Superintendent Geoff Colsell.
“Later focuses will include outstanding offenders wanted on arrest warrants and unsolved crimes including robbery and assault,” he said.
“Please support and follow this campaign by reporting anything you know confidentially to Crime Stoppers.
“This collaborative campaign forms part of Geelong Police’s overall efforts to ensure our community is safe and feels safe at all times.”

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