Stolen and burnt out cars in Broome have become part of the landscape for locals, with the community left to shoulder the cost of wrecks often left to decay for weeks in the town.
- There’s been a steady rise in the number of stolen cars left burnt out in Broome streets and bushland in recent years
- Locals say they’re bearing the cost of both insurance and removing the cars from public streets
- The Shire says it relies on the community to report burnt out cars, so it can step in and engage its contracted towing company
There has been a significant rise in car thefts in the North West over the past two years, with one notorious spree in 2020 resulting in the theft of 40 cars in the space of a month.
The latest figures from The Broome Volunteer Fire Brigade show they’ve been called to 141 vehicle fires in the town since 2018, with many of the cars stolen, dumped and set alight.
It’s a significantly higher number than in other communities around the Kimberley; in the same period Derby recorded 27 and Kununurra 26 calls out to torched vehicles.
The latest burnt out car in Broome was left for three days on a well trafficked street in town, diverting traffic and hampering access to Indigenous broadcaster Goolarri Radio.
Chief executive of Goolarri, Kira Fong, told the ABC the organization had to put extra staff on to make sure patrons at one of their events held at the weekend didn’t crash into the wreck.
“We had to bear the extra costs of somebody else having a car burnt out on the street, because we didn’t want our patrons of course running into the car at night time,” she said.
Ms Fong recalls another burnt out vehicle being left nearby for three weeks after it was in an accident and was torched before the owners could organize to have it towed.
There’s a number of scenarios that lead to cars being found burnt out and left to decay for prolonged periods in town, said Broome-based insurance broker David Keys.
If the car’s been insured, he said, insurance companies will collect the vehicle quickly, but if it isn’t the owner of the vehicle has to pay for its removal, even if it’s been reported stolen.
“When the vehicle is not insured, people are aggrieved that their vehicle has been stolen… and then they are even more aggrieved that they’ve got to try to get rid of it and pay for it,
“So it [the car] just sort of sits there,” Mr Keys said.
Broome Shire President, Harold Tracey, said the council contracts a towing company to remove burnt out vehicles, but relies on council rangers and the community to report them.
If people in the community see a burnt out vehicle they should report it to Police first and then the Shire, so the process of identifying the owner and towing the car can start, he said.
“It is the owner of the vehicle’s responsibility to cover the cost of this removal and the Shire works with the Department of Transport to identify and contact the owner,
“Where the owner does not or cannot pay for the cost of the vehicle’s removal, the Shire will pay the towing company and bill the owner to reimburse the cost,” Mr Tracey said.
Gooniyandi man and Broome local, Lennard Jaffrey, was forced to pay for the removal of his uninsured ute after it was stolen and set alight following a break in at his home in 2020.
The added costs came at a hard time for Mr Jaffrey, who said he had to borrow money to pay the $350 fee to get the car towed and a similar amount to have locks changed at home.
“I still had to pay all the other stuff like rent, food and all that, while now trying to find a vehicle to get around in,” he said.
Mr Jaffrey told the ABC he is still recovering financially from the incident and has been forced to borrow his father’s car to get around town because he can’t afford another.
“Luckily I’ve got family here and I could borrow their cars and whatnot, but if you didn’t have that you’d be screwed,” he said.