Taxi ferries thieves on fraudulent shopping spree
A PERTH taxi driver got the shock of his life last month when Toodyay police pulled over his cab in Oddfellows Street.
He had five passengers from Perth on what appeared to be a shopping trip through Midland, Gidgegannup and Toodyay, and was expecting a big fare.
But his passengers turned out to be a gang of thieves who had stolen several thousand dollars from a large number of shops, liquor stores and hotels – including at least four businesses in Toodyay – through fraudulent EFTPOS transactions.Read more
“They did it by starting an EFTPOS transaction before an accomplice distracted the store attendant’s attention,” Sgt Flaherty said.
“While this was going on, the other gang member secretly manipulated the EFTPOS machine to enable the purchase to be completed with no actual payment made.”
Another method was to distract the store keeper, secretly add a zero to the sale price and – after the transaction was completed – decide not to buy the item and obtain a refund for the bigger amount.
“We are aware of at least four fraudulent transactions in Toodyay for amounts of up to $800 each,” Sgt Flaherty said.
“The taxi driver was very surprised when we stopped him and discovered that he could have been defrauded too.
“We arrested four young men and a woman who were taken to Northam, where they were refused bail and held in custody pending court appearances.
“They were part of a bigger group that we were alerted to in recent weeks.
“The five arrested in Toodyay were charged with a large number of offences, including 27 charges against one of them.
“The Toodyay arrests followed a call from a local trader about fraudulent activity.
“The case is now being handled in Perth by detectives from the Organised Crime Squad and the Technology Crime Squad.
“We have lots of local video security camera footage to help the investigations.”
Sgt Flaherty said local police planned to invite the Toodyay Chamber of Commerce and Industry to form a local liaison group to share information about criminal activity that might affect their businesses.
“If local traders can share information with each other about suspicious activity, it will help guard them collectively against fraudulent activity and also help us to catch offenders,” Sgt Flaherty said.
Cold weather advice
THE ONSET of cold, wintry weather has prompted a warning for local people to take extra care when using electric bar heaters to stay warm.
“Every year sees two or three Wheatbelt house fires caused by electric bar heaters,” Sgt Flaherty said.
“Falling asleep huddled close to an electric bar heater with a blanket accidentally touching the element can cause an unexpected fire and serious injury, particularly if synthetic materials are involved.
“We’re urging everyone to stay warm but stay safe.”
$500,000 security upgrade
TOODYAY Police Station is undergoing a $500,000 security upgrade.
A new ‘security suite’ is being built on the eastern side of the building to improve facilities for processing people who have been arrested, pending same-day release on bail.
“It won’t be an overnight lock-up facility but will help make the station more efficient and secure,” Sgt Flaherty said.
The extensions include a new under-cover parking area behind a side gate next to the Victoria Hotel, and a remodelled security entrance and processing area.
The work is expected to be completed by the end of next month.
No rego, licence or valid plates
THE NUMBER of serious traffic accidents and ‘hoon’ driving incidents in Toodyay has fallen in recent months but police have been kept busy dealing with other traffic offences.
“We’re still finding people driving with no licence, no vehicle registration or altered plates,” Sgt Flaherty said.
“Apart from being illegal, they are not covered by vehicle or injury insurance and risk having to pay thousands of dollars in damages if they are involved in an accident, as well as the cost of fines and other penalties.”
Movement at the station
SEN. CONST. Geoff Butler will leave Toodyay at the end of this month to take up a new position in Halls Creek.
He has served just over two years in Toodyay, including a stint as acting sergeant while regular Toodyay police chief Sgt Warren Conder was on leave.
Sgt Conder and his wife, Sen. Const. Nikki Turner, are currently on a two-month overseas holiday and will return in August.
Sgt Flaherty, who lives in Toodyay but normally works in Northam, is filling in locally for Sgt Conder.
This is his second stint in that role.
Shire backing sought on rent
THE WA Police Union has written to Toodyay Shire President Brian Rayner asking him to help oppose rent increases for regional police living in State Government housing.
The union says the Government plans to increase rents by $30 a week – or $1560 a year.
This follows an annual $1000 pay increase for all officers regardless of rank, which equates to a pay cut of $560 a year for police who rent Government housing.
“Police officers in Toodyay have seen $60 per week added to their rents over the past two years,” a police union spokesperson said.
“The increase goes against the trend of rental prices which have fallen across the state.
“This is a real issue which will have negative flow-on effects on residents in your community if it is not addressed.
“If the rent increase proceeds, police officers will leave regional communities and it will be difficult to entice new police officers to your town.
“It is too risky for police officers to source their own rental properties because – unlike nurses and teachers – they can be moved against their will at the drop of a hat, leaving them at risk of paying rent in two towns.
“As a show of support for your local police officers, we ask that you raise this matter with the WA Local Government Association.”
(Crs Rayner, Paula Greenway and two proxy council delegates are due to attend the association’s annual general meeting and convention in Perth from August 1-3.)
A local police union spokesman said all seven Toodyay police officers lived in the shire but five of Gingin’s seven officers lived elsewhere.
“Police who work as drive-in\drive-out officers in regional towns don’t get to connect as closely with the communities they serve as those who live locally.
“Increasing rents for police housing will only make that situation worse.
What’s the value of a $1000 annual pay rise if your rent goes up by $1560 over the same period?”