27 September 2022

New police taskforce targets Canberra's repeat offenders

| Claire Fenwicke
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Superintendent Richard Breiner

Superintendent Richard Breiner is hopeful Operation Toric will reduce ramming of police vehicles and dangerous driving incidents, and increase community safety across Canberra. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

In a narrow room lined with whiteboards and crammed with computers, ACT Policing’s newest taskforce gathers daily.

Its objective? To reduce Canberra’s stolen vehicles rate, particularly by targeting recidivist offenders inside and outside the Territory.

“The ACT has the highest level of recidivism in the country, at any level … about 83 per cent of crime is related back to recidivist offenders,” Superintendent Richard Breiner says.

Operation Toric (Traffic or Recidivist Investigations Canberra) uses non-traditional policing methods and intelligence gathering to identify key offenders.

Targets are identified by assessing prior criminal history, recidivism, recent involvements, discrete intelligence gathering, forensic intelligence, crime scene examination and CCTV.

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According to the results, Operation Toric has already had a major impact in its first month.

Since the pilot program’s inception on 1 August, 49 arrests and more than 120 charges have been laid. All offenders were known to police at the time of their arrest.

This included one man who had previously been charged with 233 offences in the ACT.

But the flow-on effect has stunned even those behind its creation.

It’s uncovered that about six per cent of offenders contribute to up to 40 per cent of offences across Canberra.

According to one of the team’s intelligence analysts, stolen motor vehicle offences have dropped 25 per cent when comparing July to August, and fail to stop offences have dropped by 42 per cent.

Related offences often using stolen vehicles, such as robbery and property offences, have also dropped.

“And this is just in its infancy,” Supt Breiner says.

“In that time period, to have caused that dip … it’s increased public safety and member safety as well.”

Briefing room of Operation Toric.

Briefing room of Operation Toric. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

The Toric team comprises community intelligence officers, major crime members, proactive intervention and diversion team, road policing, general duties officers and specialist members from discrete teams such as canine, surveillance and tactical response.

Each day they come together to get a rundown of recent criminal activity and information about particular persons of interest. The suspects can be in the ACT, or crossing the border from NSW.

Officers are told of “hot” issues of the day, and other areas of interest to keep on their radar as they head out on the beat.

Supt Breiner says a variety of capabilities from every area of ACT Policing are brought to the Toric table.

“It’s an inter-mixed team, all learning off each other, but the intelligence set up is key to the operation,” he says.

“It’s one of the few times we’ve thrown overly significant intelligence resources to such an issue.

“Rather than targeting a syndicate or person, we’re targeting a crime type.”

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The taskforce was formed in response to recent fatal crashes on Canberra’s roads, and the community’s plea for something to be done.

But it meant other operations had to be adjusted.

“They haven’t been removed so much as redirected,” Supt Breiner says.

“Our patrol members have picked up the slack, working over time … The guys on patrol have just had to do more with less.”

But given the operation’s success, it’s hoped the trial will become a permanent fixture of the force.

“It’s hoped our current work into stolen motor vehicle and recidivist offenders means it will take some of the other workload off,” Supt Breiner says.

“If we can get a dent in this, we can see how it creates an effect for our police members to do other inquiries.

“This is Canberra wide … every area has skin in the game.”

Original Article published by Claire Fenwicke on Riotact.

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