ALARMING: Stolen Warwick guns on black market
MORE than 300 firearms have been stolen from regional Queensland towns in the past 18 months, and detectives believe about half of them could have ended up in the hands of dangerous criminals.
Police are now appealing to gun owners for increased firearm security in the hopes of curbing the rate of stolen weapons being sold on the black market to organised crime circles and being used in violent crimes and armed robberies.
An alarming number of firearms were stolen from Warwick.
The conclusion of two major police operations late last year in southwest Queensland resulted in police charging six people on ten counts of supplying stolen firearms, which were then on-sold to organised crime operations.
Detective Acting Superintendent Regional Crime Coordinator Southern Region, Mat Kelly, said the rate of stolen weapons was concerning, and that police would be stepping up their auditing.
In the Darling Downs region, a total of 144 weapons have been stolen since July 1, 2018 with only 54 of those recovered.
A total of 33 weapons were stolen from Toowoomba, 27 from Laidley, 17 from Warwick and 16 from Pittsworth.
In the Southern region, a total of 143 weapons were stolen in the same period, and 74 were recovered. Eighteen were stolen from Cunnamulla, 17 from Roma, and 10 from Dirranbandi, with the majority taken from rural properties.
"Most of the weapons stolen in this district are being taken from insecure dwellings, farming locations and outbuildings," he said.
"We've seen really bad examples of weapons being left in vehicles, which have then been stolen and as a result these firearms have ended up in the wrong hands.
"We had firearms located in a car in Toowoomba which had been stolen from Roma.
"What is also alarming is that almost a third of these stolen weapons have been taken from their safe, because offenders have found the keys.
"We need our firearm holders to be securing their keys."
Det Act Spt Kelly said there had also been instances of forgetfulness, which led to opportunistic theft.
"We've had instances with firearm owners who have taken their weapons to an outbuilding to clean, they do their maintenance and then they just leave them there - they forget about them," he said.
"And then an opportunistic thief comes along, goes onto that rural property, and steals the weapons simply because it hasn't been put back in the facility."
Det Act Spt Kelly said criminals are targeting rural properties to steal weapons for the black market.
"We have intelligence that suggests organised crime is actually coming out here into our districts and targeting rural properties to steal guns," Det Act Spt Kelly said.
"If firearms end up in the hands of the wrong people in our communities because gun owners are being irresponsible, then that's really concerning for us.
"Police will be conducting more random audits across the district, and there will be a zero tolerance. If we come to your home and your weapons aren't being stored correctly, you can expect to be attending court.
"There is an expectation among the community that if you own a firearm, that you comply with the weapons act. There is a lot of concern that these firearms could end up in the wrong hands and later be used for violent crimes, armed robberies."
The Weapon Licensing Act states any person who possesses a firearm must take all responsible precautions to ensure safe storage of the firearm, that the firearm is not lost or stolen, and that it does not come into the possession of a person who is not authorised to possess the firearm.
Those found guilty of failing to secure firearms under section 60 could receive penalties in excess of $10,000 or 2 years imprisonment.
The Southern Region, which encompasses 671,366 km2 of Queensland and boasts a population of 784,185 people is home to 58,984 weapons licenses and 251, 237 weapons.