Torched in 24 hours

POLICE have 24 hours to identify a vacant Housing Tasmania property in Launceston.

Otherwise, it is up in smoke.

Detective Inspector Scott Flude, of Launceston CIB, said half of the 22 publicly owned houses that had been burnt in deliberately lit fires in the North in the past 14 months were  Leg 1classed as unoccupied, and many more had been vacated or abandoned without Housing Tasmania being notified.

``The evidence suggests that most of them are burned within 24 hours of the locals becoming aware that the house is vacant,'' Detective Inspector Flude said.

 ``We are calling on neighbours to let us know as soon as these homes become vacant, because if we can speed that process up we will be better able to identify high-risk homes.''

Detective Inspector Flude's comments came a day after two Housing Tasmania properties at Ravenswood were burnt within minutes of each other, and three weeks after two more state-owned homes at Rocherlea were destroyed by deliberately lit fires.

He said often the fires were lit by youths, and usually surrounding residents had a fair idea of who was to blame.

``Generally the community know what's going on, and so we ask them to help us out,'' he said.

``That's who is affected by arson: it's not Housing Tasmania, it's the community.

``It could be your home next.''

Detective Inspector Flude said police met Housing Tasmania staff this month to work out a strategy to reduce public housing arson, which has cost the state $2.373 million last financial year.

Housing Tasmania director Peter White said the average turnaround time for retenanting a home was 26 days, including maintenance work.

Mr White said Housing Tasmania provided police with a list of high-risk vacant properties based on tenancy history and the history of the area, and those properties were included in police patrols.

He said properties at a very high-risk of arson were fitted with remote-monitored security devices that transmitted a real-time video feed and alerted both police and private security patrols if there was an intruder, and that those cameras had already led to arrests.

There is also a $10,000 reward on offer for anyone who provides police with information that leads to a conviction for arson.

The Sentencing Advisory Council is reviewing the penalties for arson.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman said he expected its final report before the end of the year.

Anyone with information about a suspected arson can contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.


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