Australian authorities have warned of looters in towns where people have evacuated; and scammers raising fake funds for relief following the aftermath of hundreds of bushfires; dozens of which are still burning.
According to New South Wales (NSW) Police on Tuesday, three people, including a 17-year-old male; have been charged over alleged offences committed in areas of the state’s South Coast area impacted by bushfires.
Gary Worboys, Deputy Police Commissioner and Head of State Emergency Operations; said police were “proactively patrolling bushfire-affected areas to prevent and target opportunistic thieves.”
“It’s difficult to comprehend that there are people, who would try to profit; or benefit at the expense of communities who have already lost so much,” Worboys said on Tuesday.
He said it was “absolutely unacceptable and criminal behaviour.”
“There’s no specific offence for looting but as we know; people’s homes are their castles and particularly in these times of devastation; it really does go against the grain of the Australian people and spirit,” Worboys said in Sydney.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated last week due to severe fire danger; as a result of extreme weather conditions in the south and east of Australia.
NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott said anyone who takes advantage of vulnerable communities affected by bushfires is “the lowest of the low” and should face the full force of the law.
“At a time when we’re seeing unprecedented levels of generosity pour in from every corner of NSW; it’s unthinkable that anyone would seek to exploit those who most need our support,” Elliott said.
“We don’t live in South Central LA or Syria. We don’t do this to each other. This is the south coast of NSW.”
Meanwhile, the Australian consumer watchdog has sounded the alarm on scammers; duping generous Australians donating to bushfire appeals as tens of millions of dollars have been raised; in support of the firefighters, people at firefronts, or the victims of the fire.