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Orange detective says we're making it way too easy for criminals. Here's why

September 14, 2022


Detective chief inspector Brett Smith talks to a member of the opublic at a community meeting. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

By Peter Holmes


It used to be a point of pride in country areas - no need to lock your door.


But the police of Orange have a message for the citizens. Those days are long gone.


Officers are finding that people are still forgetting, or not bothering, to lock their doors when they are at home.

“There is a clear nexus between break, enter and steal residential, and stolen cars,” said detective chief inspector Brett Smith at a community meeting on Tuesday.



The detective is the crime manager for the Central West Police District and said he is aware of every single offence that is logged into the police computer system.


“In my review, I’m finding a lot of people are not locking their houses," he said. "Front doors are unlocked, side doors are unlocked, back doors are unlocked.”


He said there were “a lot of opportunist crimes occurring” and that CCTV footage showed the difference between houses where doors were locked and where they were not".

“People are coming up and checking," he said. "If it’s open they’ll go in.




“Generally, with the public, there will be keys on the side stand in the hallway or on a hook, so [they are] opening the door, walking in, grabbing the keys.


“Next thing you know, they're gone and the car’s gone. If there's a wallet, of course it will go missing as well.”


Smith’s message was blunt: “You need to lock houses. If it’s locked, they move on. If you continue to make it easy for them, it will continue to occur.”

According to statistics shown at the meeting, there were 286 break and enters in Orange from the start of August 2021 to the end of August 2022, at an average of 22 a month.


In the same 13-month period there were 364 logged reports of steal from motor vehicle, at an average of more than 28 a month.


Chief inspector Peter Atkins discusses property offences in Orange. Copyright: Orange News Examiner.

"Steal from motor vehicle, it's been an ongoing issue," said Smith.


"I'm finding people are leaving valuable items in clear sight in their vehicles. Additionally, vehicles are [being left] unlocked. Leaving cash, laptops, phones inside the car."


One Orange resident asked what she should do to protect herself if someone entered her home.


Chief inspector Peter Atkins said she should ring 000 immediately. “You can use reasonable force to defend yourself,” he said.

Smith then explained that police were happy to come to a property and give advice on how the resident could make it more difficult for criminals to enter.



“But as Mr Atkins said, if somebody is in your house you can use as much reasonable force as is reasonably necessary to protect yourself and your property.”

“What does reasonable force mean?” the woman asked.


“We can’t determine that,” said Smith. “That is something [for] investigators, or the court.”


Another audience member followed up: “Can you tell us what reasonable force is and what rights we have?”

“That's the law," said chief inspector Atkins. "You can use reasonable force to protect yourself.”


“What does that mean?” the man asked again, much like a jury foreman in a criminal trial seeking guidance - as they do, without success - from a judge on what exactly "beyond reasonable doubt" means, and where the lines in the sand are drawn.


Atkins tried to explain by giving an example: “If Mr Smith said ‘I’m going to punch you Peter’, I can’t shoot him. I can use reasonable force to defend myself. If he had a knife and I had a gun, that would change the story. Reasonable force under the circumstances.”


“So you’re at a disadvantage?” asked an audience member.


“Well that's the law,” Atkins concluded. He knew he was never going to be able to satisfactorily answer the question, as there was no definitive answer to give. “I can only tell you what the law is.”


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