Police step up war on stolen guns and rifles

LOCAL police have joined the war on illegal guns, warning most of the firearms stolen are taken from country areas.

Operation Unification has been launched after hundreds of firearms were stolen across NSW, including 62 long-arms in the Western Region since January this year.

“In the 2013/2014 financial year alone, we saw 555 firearms reported stolen across the state,” Assistant Commissioner Jeff Loy said.

“498 of the stolen weapons were long-arms (rifles and shotguns), likely to be offered for sale on the black market for a quick profit.”

“If you know someone who’s unlawfully in possession of a gun, then ring the hotline 

and help us remove it from unsafe hands,” New England Commander Fred Trench said.

“The information you provide might save a life.”

Police warn most thefts were crimes of opportunity, with thieves stealing unsecured weapons once inside.

“Normally, it’s a case where thieves break into the property, looking for anything of value, and make off with the weapons,” Barwon Superintendent Gelina Talbot said.

There are dozens of firearms missing after a string of break-and-enters this year in the New England North West.

Two rifles and two barrels were stolen in Wee Waa in January, while two more rifles and ammunition were stolen from a house in Moree in the same month.

Three rifles and two shotguns were taken during a break-in to an Armidale home while in February four rifles and ammunition were stolen from a shipping container in West Tamworth.

Two rifles, three scopes and ammunition were taken from a Breeza property in March before three firearms and a shotgun were stolen from a Warialda home.

And a rifle, shotgun and ammunition were stolen before a fire engulfed a home at Watsons Creek.

“Break-ins like these tells us the opportunistic thieves are stealing entire gun collections,” Oxley Superintendent Clint Pheeney said.

“As a community, we can’t afford to see such a large number of firearms in criminal hands, so if you know where they are, tell us.”

Operation Unification is intensifying its focus on rural areas in an attempt to seize illegal guns.

Gun owners are being urged to check their safes and ensure their guns are secure.

“Moreover, for added security, store your bolts and ammunition separate from the firearms,” Superintendent Pheeney said.

And anyone with information on illegal firearms is being urged to come forward.

“Gun crime doesn’t recognise state and territory borders,” Superintendent Talbot said.

“We know illegal firearms change hands from one criminal to another.

“Unification allows all police forces to work together to locate these weapons and lock up those criminals.”

Anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

The operation will wrap up at the end of June.

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