Melbourne, August 31: The Andrews Labor Government will today introduce legislation to create tough new offences for carjacking and home invasion to give police the laws they need to keep the community safe.
The legislation, developed in close consultation with Victoria Police, will include tough new penalties and statutory minimum sentences for aggravated carjacking and aggravated home invasion.
This initiative by the Victorian government came about after Melbourne’s West experienced an onslaught of traumatic carjacking and brazen home invasion incidents – so much so – that the suburb of Caroline Springs had been nicknamed – ‘Criminal Springs’, by its residents.
Richa Walia of Caroline Springs, drawing attention to their plight had narrated how her family was terrorised by a home invasion in the morning on July 16.
“They were all of African appearance. They jumped the side fence and came around and smashed a really big rock into a side glass door,” Ms Walia told The AGE.
“They came in and started screaming, turned the lights on themselves. My parents and I came down and faced them. They just demanded car keys from us.”
“They were holding weapons …and we felt so unsafe in our own home.”
Caroline Springs and Wyndham with large numbers of Indian-descent residents have faced the highest number of incidents.
Deloitte Tract study in 2015 ranked Caroline Springs at 313 on its liveability list, with crimes touching a record-high of 17 per cent in the last 3 years, according to Crime Statistics Agency.
Point Cook stood at a better 309 in terms of liveability; but Wyndham beat Caroline Springs with its crime rate rise of 19.8 per cent in just two years, 2015-16.
The Municipality of Wydham with Point Cook and its adjoining suburbs of Tarneit and Williams Landing had also witnessed a surge in similar crimes in the last few months.
In only one week of last month, three incidents were reported where cases of aggravated burglary, physical assault and car thefts were registered.
In a brazen attack in Tarneit, Paresh Parmar was approached by a gang of five young boys outside his home for directions to the railway station.
But the attackers surrounded Parmar and assaulted him on the eye before driving away with his car, which had Parmar’s house keys. The group later returned in the night and tried to break in but was stalled because Parmar had changed the locks before going to bed.
In another incident in Williams Landing, a group of four black teenagers attacked resident Ritesh Chandan around 3.30am, when the family of six was asleep.
The gang threatened the family, picked up ipads, mobile phones and drove off with their car.
In Point Cook, a BMW, Mercedes and laptops were stolen from a home in the early hours the morning.
As many residents pointed to the offenders being from the African background, police made arrests in relation to the Tarneit and Williams Landing incidents.
Community Vigilante Groups
The spate of incidents sparked heated discussions and caused residents in Caroline Springs, Wyndham, Tarneit and other suburbs, to form vigilante’ groups en-bloc, to ensure safety and protect their homes.
Earlier this month, more than 300 residents rallied in Caroline Springs to protest lack of police presence and signed a petition against the surge in home invasions and carjackings.
More petitions were signed by residents of Wyndham to demand
- an increase in police presence,
- a police station for Point Cook,
- technological equipment that enables efficient policing, and
- reinstatement of tough bail laws and conditions for repeat juvenile offenders.
A Neighbourhood Watch group in Tarneit had campaigned for “security threats and intrusions” in and around their neighbourhood. Rishi Prabhakar of the group had also geared momentum with his campaign for security “at the local level”.
Member of Wyndham Crime Stoppers, and Truganina resident, Safwat Ali Khan recently confirmed that they had banded together in an online forum.
Victoria Police North-West local commander Russell Barrett had said that the offending was outrageous and “particularly worrying that the nature of offenders was changing and they were becoming more brazen”.
NEW Tough Laws against Carjacking and Home Invasions
The new legislation will amend the Crimes Act 1958 to create new offences of carjacking, aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion.
The Bail Act 1977 will also be amended to include a presumption against bail for aggravated carjacking, home invasion and aggravated home invasion. This means the accused will need to justify why they should not be remanded.
Given many offenders being underage, the new laws will apply regardless of the age of the offender.
Carjacking will carry a maximum penalty of 15 years and aggravated carjacking face a maximum penalty of 25 years. A statutory minimum non-parole period of three years will also apply to aggravated carjacking.
Home invasion will have a maximum penalty of 25 years and aggravated home invasion will attract a statutory minimum non-parole period of three years.
To recognise the traumatic effect on victims in cases of home invasion, the Bill specifically introduces an element of “strict liability” which means it is irrelevant whether the offender knew if there was someone home at the time.
Congratulating Premier Daniel Andrews on the new strict measures, Caroline Springs resident, Ajay Joshi said that “it will make a huge difference to our neighbourhood”.
Welcoming mandatory remand for offenders regardless of their age, Mr Joshi talking to BT said that “offenders are increasingly getting younger and it was time that the government recognised this legal loophole which allowed under-age offenders to not feel the force of the law”.
While the Joshi family of four has not experienced any direct crimes, Mr Joshi who is also a business owner in nearby Ravenhall, said that the neighbourhood had become unsafe due to criminal gangs roving the area and “many incidents of car-jacking very nearby”.
He said that the new laws had been welcomed by the community at large.
In introducing the new laws, Premier Daniel Andrews said that “People have the right to feel safe in their homes and in their cars.
“These tough new laws are about protecting the community and keeping Victorians safe.”
Attorney General Martin Pakula addressed the effect: “Carjacking and home invasion are traumatic for victims and their families. The Andrews Labor Government is sending a clear message to criminals that this behaviour will not be tolerated.”
“We have been working closely with Victoria Police and we are giving them the laws they need to deal with these perpetrators.”
Police Association Victoria chief executive Ron Iddles who had earlier pointed to the issue of lack of police resources in the area, said that “community safety is a government issue.”
Mr Iddles confirmed that the government had committed for 300 more police personnel across Victoria over the next few months.
Ramakrishna VenuGopal with RD
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