A single mother could have been another victim of Wagga’s break and enter scourge, if not for her aunt.
The aunt was last week checking on her niece’s house next door, when she heard someone take off at a run.
She said she did not want to think about what could have happened if she had not spooked the man, who had been snooping through the bushes, up and down the side of the house.
“It’s the way it is now apparently,” she said. “(Offenders) will just go into your house and take what they want.”
“You can’t even go to bed with your windows unlocked now because there’s a risk. Society is getting worse … it’s shocking.”
Her story follows the release of the state’s latest crime statistics on Wednesday morning.
The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research’s quarterly report revealed the region’s plague of break and enter crime to be among the worst in the state between December 2016 to December 2017.
More than 1300 Riverina residents and more than 460 businesses fell victim to the unlawful entering of their property across 12 months.
Wagga itself accounted for more than 930 of these incidents, raking it among one of the break and enter hot spots of NSW.
While dedicated police work hard to curb the trend, the bureau revealed not much had changed across 24 months, with the number of incidents exceeding 700 each year.
Neighbourhood Watch president Wayne Deaner said the latest data showed the city itself was changing.
“We’re not living in a small country town anymore,” Mr Deaner said. “It’s not as safe as it used to be, and that’s sad, but it’s true.”
He said local residents needed to look out for each other more than ever and to report any criminal information via the Police Assistance Line on 131 444.
“We need to get out of that mentality and look at the big picture,” he said.
“We need every member of the community to realise what crime is like here, before they are affected by it … because that is when it is too late.
“They become a statistic.”
To anyone who did not want to be identified when reporting on an incident, Mr Deaner said they could call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
“You might ring up and have that one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “Police then have the big picture and they can do something about it.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Wagga’s crime manager Detective Inspector Cloake, who said the rate of crime was not seasonal.
He said incidents were often dependent on who was coming in to the city, adding to a population of almost 75,000, and who had been released from prison.
“Our efforts in addressing, stopping and preventing crime will continue,” Inspector Cloake said. “I give my word on that.”
He said before December last year, Operation Kingsman resulted in the capture of 18 offenders in an across-border operation targeting property offences.
“The collective offences some were charged with amounted to about 112 offences,” Inspector Cloake said “That accounts for some of that spike.”
He said reporting of crime and self-preservation were keys to preventing further break and enter crime.
“We do our best to meet the community needs with the resources we have available,” he said. “People need to remember we are a city, with city-like problems.”