– Police have established a fugitive taskforce to track down armed offenders, bail jumpers, escapees and runaway sex offenders hiding throughout Australia.
The unit, which has already tracked down and arrested hundreds of parole violators, has had its role widened after an eight-week trial during which investigators arrested three of the state’s most dangerous fugitives.
They have also arrested three serious sex offenders who breached supervision orders.
Assistant Commissioner (Crime) Steve Fontana told Fairfax the taskforce would be assigned to find offenders with a history of violence who are armed and pose a risk to the community.
The Fugitive Taskforce will be a larger version of the Repeat Offenders Parole Enforcement Unit that has specialised in finding parole violators who have committed thousands of crimes while on the run.
“Over the years these investigators have developed expertise in tracking down people and that ability will be used to find a range of fugitives,” Mr Fontana said.
He said the taskforce had shown an ability to efficiently arrest violent suspects without injury. “They have made the situation safe for members, the community and the suspects themselves.”
The Fugitive Taskforce will check forensic records to identify crimes committed by parole violators and fugitives, coordinate investigations throughout Victoria and liaise with Australian and international law enforcement agencies.
Investigators have already identified suspects who have fled to Ireland, Bosnia, Croatia and New Zealand.
Assistant Commissioner Fontana said the taskforce would run at least three investigative crews and target offenders committing violent crimes around Victoria.
Fugitive Taskforce team leader Detective Sergeant Mick Gunn said, “We find people, that’s what we do. We are here and we are not going away, so get used to it.”
He said the taskforce would reactivate old cases to search for fugitives who have missing for years. “We’d rather die trying than die wondering.”
The number of parole violators arrested by police in Victoria has jumped from 269 in 2009 to 579 last year.
Detective Sergeant Gunn said police, case workers and the Adult Parole Board would work together closely to identify parole violators likely to commit further crimes.
Since 2009 police have identified and arrested more than 1500 parole violators.
The unit has worked closely with friends and families to persuade many of the violators to surrender voluntarily – John Silvester