Operation Armour launched in Tamworth by NSW Police to combat firearms theft across NSW

Combating gun crime: Assistant NSW Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie launches Operation Armour in Tamworth on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Gardner 040619GGA0106
Combating gun crime: Assistant NSW Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie launches Operation Armour in Tamworth on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Gardner 040619GGA0106

RURAL crime detectives along with the firearms squad and forensic police will now work hand-in-hand when any guns are reported stolen as part of a new operation to combat the ongoing problem of firearms theft.

Operation Armour - the force's new blitz to stem the rising black market of firearms being stolen and used in other crimes, or as currency in the drug trade - was launched in Tamworth with a warning from police.

"What greater example do we need then here in Tamworth with the death of our officer, David Rixon, from an unlicensed firearm in the hands of a criminal," Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie said.

The guns are the continual target of thieves - especially in the bush where landholders store them off-site or on remote farms - and can take days or weeks before they're discovered missing.

Assistant Commission Geoff McKechnie said the new operation would bring together different policing units to "arrest more offenders" and disrupt the crimes before they occur.

Longarms, like rifles and shotguns, which are primarily used by farmers are the most commonly stolen and often they have multiple weapons stored together meaning several are stolen in the one hit.

That puts those firearms into that grey market, that black market if you like, into circulation of criminals and so often we see that feeding back into drug supply.

Assistant Commissioner Geoff McKechnie

"That puts those firearms into that grey market, that black market if you like, into circulation of criminals and so often we see that feeding back into drug supply when we're executing search warrants, like in Tamworth recently, for example, we saw a number of firearms recovered during what was predominantly a drug targeted operation," Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said.

Landholders are being warned to ensure guns are stored correctly in gun safes that are bolted or fixed to the property, and ensure keys are hidden, and constantly checked.

"These guns are out there and they can do great damage, and we see that so often in other offences when we do recover firearms they're still unregistered, they're not owned by law-abiding people who've gone to the trouble of getting a firearms licence," he said.

"There are still a number of firearms out there, that are illegally obtained, unregistered, and not being stored appropriately and that's where the risk really elevates."

Combating gun crime: Assistant NSW Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie launches Operation Armour in Tamworth on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Gardner

Combating gun crime: Assistant NSW Police Commissioner Geoff McKechnie launches Operation Armour in Tamworth on Tuesday. Photo: Gareth Gardner

The operation will see police carry out more audits and gun check blitzes, and work closely with the firearms' registry, along with a new education campaign.

WHAT IT MEANS

There'll be a standardised response from police to each and every report of firearms stolen in NSW.

That response will include specialist units within NSW Police including the rural crime prevention team, criminal investigators, firearm and drug squad officers from the State Crime Command, Forensic Service Group (FSG).

Police hope that deploying or utilising each of those resources from the get-go and at the very early stage will help to gather as much evidence and intelligence on the theft.

That information will then be reported in a standardised record entry in the NSW Police system.

Assistant Commissioner McKechnie said the new operation would assisting in the "investigative measures" and was "largely about stopping these things before they happen".

"When unsafe storage is detected we will be enforcing the legislation, we are urging people to ensure they're firearms are safely stored," he said.

"If offences are detected, obviously as we do now, we will take action.

"We're urging people to comply with the legislation.

"Don't leave your keys next to the gun safe, don't leave them in easy view, the keys need to be on your person at all times, if you're absent from the location."

This story Fresh ammo for cops in the fight against firearms theft first appeared on The Armidale Express.

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