Criminals fire guns in city's streets

LAUNCESTON SHOOTINGS

Between late March and mid- August, a shooting was reported every two weeks in the Launceston area.

Police statistics show eight shootings were reported in the North in 2012-13, a major spike from only two in 2011-12.

Gunshot wound admissions to the Launceston General Hospital emergency department also tripled, with three gunshot wound presentations in 2011-12, increasing threefold to nine in 2012-13.

The causes of the gunshot injuries are unknown, because no breakdown of the data is available.

October police data, however, shows that people injured statewide because of firearms offending is five in the year to date, compared with four in the previous period.

During the same period, a firearm was used as a weapon 20 times in the year to date, up from 16 previously.

Launceston witnessed six shootings in May 2013 alone.

Most incidents were between feuding parties known to police and were likely drug-related.

One of the most serious cases involved the shooting of an innocent bystander, who sustained a leg injury, in Launceston's central business district in York Street on July 29.

Northern detectives were frustrated by the initial lack of co- operation from witnesses, but made a critical breakthrough in late August, with the arrest of three men as part of Operation Agenda.

By the end of August, the police campaign found success with the seizure of 16 firearms and the arrest of half a dozen suspects.

FIREARM CRIME

Firearms also became more common in armed robberies, with statewide police data revealing that a firearm was used in 24 per cent of armed robberies in 2012-13, up from 17 per cent in 2011-12.

Moreover, controversy surrounded the Tasmania Police firearm registry, with a series of high-profile firearm thefts statewide sparking rumours that the registry had been breached.

However, Tasmania Police Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams said on several occasions that a review of the registry found no evidence of a breach and security had also been enhanced.

Police statistics show there were 247 firearms stolen across the state in 2012-13.

Firearm thieves also became desperate, with the theft of two historical pistols, one belonging to Tasmanian bushranger Martin Cash, from a glass cabinet in QVMAG at Inveresk in October.

Neither of the revolvers could fire without specialist knowledge or equipment, but could still be used to threaten people.

Launceston police recovered the pistols, dating from the 1860s, more than a week later, buried in an undisclosed location on the city's fringe.

POLICE SEARCHES

An experienced yachtsman was found dead at sea on June 4, when his 21-foot yacht ran aground on the southern side of Badger Island, west of Flinders Island.

Police found the body of Donald Marshall, 78, who had separated from his craft, in waters about two kilometres east of the island.

Mr Marshall had been living at sea for about three decades and was attempting a circumnavigation of Australia.

The sea also claimed the lives of Launceston's Tim Skinner, 33, and his son, Connor Hart, 6, on June 22.

They were rock-fishing at Bicheno when waves engulfed them.

Police recovered the body of Connor in waters at Suntrap Cove soon after, while his father is missing at sea.

The disappearance of University of Tasmania PhD student Natasha Narang, 30, on October 4, also sparked a large- scale police search.

Officers combed areas including the Tamar River, near the Northern Outlet, and recovered her body in the river near Rosevears on November 24.

Police said no suspicious circumstances were involved.

POLICE CUTS

A war of words erupted this year between Police Minister David O'Byrne and Police Association of Tasmania president Pat Allen.

Constable Allen was angered with the budget cuts made to the force and said these had been badly felt by members, with officers forced to do more work with less resources.

He said there were 1228 police more than 18 months ago, and counting recruits who were not on the streets, the number was 1248.

Constable Allen said numbers were as low as 1097, and the recruits when they hit the streets would bring the number back to 1120.

The police union has ramped up their anti-government cuts campaign in the lead-up to the expected March election, with advertisements featuring prominently on buses and buildings.

However, Mr O'Byrne argued that Tasmania was still the safest place in Australia and repeated calls on the police union to meet him.

He said two recruit courses at the police academy would bring more than 50 extra officers to the front line.

The government also brought forward an additional $1.5million to replace police ballistic vests with new multi-use integrated protection vests.

ROAD TOLL

As of December 30, there have been 37 deaths on Tasmanian roads this year.

The road toll has exceeded the 32 recorded last year, and if the 2013 provisional figure stands, it will be the highest road toll since 2009, when 63 people died.

However, the Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources expects to revise the final road toll to consider medical causes.

An increase in deaths among motorcyclists, 10, and older drivers aged 64 and over, 12, has caused concern this year.

There were five road fatalities across the first three weekends of December alone, including four involving motorcycles.

The double fatality at Perth about 10pm on December 14 had police at a loss to explain why the motorcyclist and his pillion passenger had not heeded basic safety requirements, after it was revealed the men had been riding an unregistered and uninsured motorbike, without lights or helmets.

BUSHFIRES

Among the worst bushfires in Tasmania's history raged in early January, with the fire danger rating reaching catastrophic for the first time in many areas and the state recording some of its most severe fire weather conditions.

In four days, there were more than 40 fires statewide.

Bushfires devastated homes, farms and infrastructure in and around centres including Dunalley, where more than 65 homes were lost; Forcett, more than 20,000 hectares burnt; Lake Repulse, more than 11,500 hectares burnt; Bicheno, more than 4900 hectares burnt; and Montumana, more than 3400 hectares burnt.

The fires destroyed or seriously damaged 203 houses, while a further 212 buildings were also destroyed.

The catastrophe sparked the damning Tasmanian Bushfires Inquiry Report, released in October, that slammed authorities as unprepared and confused about who was in charge, and blasted inadequate fuel reduction burns.

ARSON

Forty-six structure fires were deliberately lit in the North during 2012-13 with a further 11 started in the past six months, Tasmania Fire Service figures show.

During that time there have been about 206 deliberately lit fires statewide.

More than half of those have been torched homes.

According to the fire service data the number of deliberately lit structure fires has remained fairly stable.

More arson takes place in the South, followed by the North then the North-West.

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