Thieves target gun owners

GUN owners in Glen Innes are asking some serious questions after another stash of firearms was stolen from a home in Railway Street.

The theft was reported to Glen Innes Police on Sunday morning.

They had also been investigating the theft of five firearms and ammunition that were taken from a house in Macquarie Street between June 15 and 26 while the owner was away.

During the breakin in Railway Street, a safe was forced open and eight firearms were stolen.

These included a 12 gauge shotgun, a CZ .22 long rifle, a Ruger .22 Hornet, a Sako .22, Remington .243 Winchester, Sako .243 Winchester, Lithgow .303 and a Remington .308 Winchester.

These thefts come on the heels of a report that there has been a serious breach in the NSW Firearms Registry database, and the information was being used as a “shopping list” for criminals.

On May 31 the Daily Telegraph published a story which told of 50 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition that had been stolen from NSW registered gun owners in 16 days which had prompted fears that the state’s firearms registry had been compromised.

At the time, NSW Police denied there was a problem and said there was no evidence that information from the registry was used to commit the crimes .

They said that criminals could access the information from a variety of sources and not just the Firearms Registry.

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However Detective Superintendent Ken Finch, head of the NSW Firearms and Organised Crime Squad did agree that some of the recent thefts appeared targeted.

He told the Daily Telegraph that most thefts were in rural areas where people know locals have multiple weapons on properties.

In a number of cases entire gun safes had been removed from properties with the weapons inside.

Superintendent Finch said the registry was subject to strict audit provisions and not available to all police.

“Access is only granted by a Local Area Commander when it is absolutely needed for an investigation.”

He said in the Daily Telegraph that only a limited number of civilians had access and usage of the list was strictly monitored.

“Gun clubs are another obvious possible source of information as well as the fact some of these robberies could be opportunistic.”

Gun dealers and victims say the gun registry would be a goldmine to criminals with the details of the types of weapons, where they are stored and the addresses of owners.

One robbery victim had eight guns stolen within months of being audited by police and his new address placed on the registry.

“I was audited in May last year and robbed in October. I had eight weapons stolen from a secure safe,” said the victim.

“I live in an estate of 70 homes and was the only place robbed. To me it was obvious I was targeted with information from somewhere.

“Call me cynical but it is too much of a co-incidence.”

“I have been in the same shooters club for years and never had a problem.”

Inspector Garry Huard, Glen Innes Duty Officer said it would be a terrible situation if the registry had been hacked as it did contain very sensitive information.

“We are investigating the thefts and looking to see if there is a link between the two.

“If anyone does have any information we would appreciate it if they called us on either Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or on 67329799.

Police have seized more than 1400 weapons since April 1 this year.

The latest figures from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reveal gun theft is on the increase.

In the past three years, a total of 1706 guns went missing, and the figure has risen from 540 to 640 firearms stolen in the last year.

The bureau said it did not keep separate figures on whether the weapons were registered.