POLICE claim a focused approach to catching recidivist drug-fuelled offenders has led to a jump in crime statistics.
Crime is up 19.8 per cent comparing 2016 with the previous year across the Warrnambool police service area covering Warrnambool, Moyne and Corangamite council areas.
Assaults are up 20 per cent, burglaries 55 per cent, thefts 30 per cent, drug trafficking 37 per cent, weapons offences 42 per cent and dangerous acts endangering people 40 per cent.
Warrnambool police Inspector (Tasking coordinator) Paul Marshall said a strategy was developed targeting drugs and recidivist offenders which had lifted the figures.
He said intelligence revealed drug users were often involved in residential burglaries.
"We try and understand drug users; what their habit is costing them in dollar terms," he said.
"If they are receiving X amount of dollars from employment or social security payments, what does their drug usage cost them? We discuss that and the shortfall, knowing that shortfall will in high probability be made up through crime.
"That's the type of intelligence we are trying to get. How do they fund their habit."
Inspector Marshall said the tasking coordination effort was robust, involving officers from the crime investigation, division response unit, highway patrol and the family violence units.
"We know persons of interest in residential burglaries are usually also drug users," he said.
"We work very closely with judicial processes, with staff at the Department Of Justice in relation to community orders, those on parole and work through who is not really complying.
"The aim is to identify and target those individuals."
The inspector said covert and overt disruption tactics were employed by police.
"There may be an offender causing grief through burglaries who is unlicensed. He could be targeted through traffic enforcement, arrested for driving while unlicensed, charged and bailed with restrictive conditions which help us," Inspector Marshall said.
"The targeting of offenders is clearly working - that's why the stats are up.
"However, we are very aware that the statistics have also increased in real terms and there's a heavy impact on victims. We are acutely aware."
Inspector Marshall said the increased reporting of family violence was also reflected in the rise in assaults.
"Those offences are generally committed by persons known to each other. There is also a link to drugs, to ice, and drug debts," he said.
"A lot of drugs are bought on credit and users can't afford to pay it off."
The police chief said the south-west was not immune to statewide trends, shown in car thefts.
He said one of the very few ways to steal cars made after 2010 was through the use of keys - leading to offenders breaking into houses to grab keys and bank cards.
The keys are used to drive away in vehicles while the bank cards are used to pay-wave the purchase of goods.
Inspector Marshall said police were also executing lots of search warrants leading to the location and seizure of weapons - often kept by people involved in the drug culture concerned about their safety.
"Drugs cause major community harm," he said.
"But we are fighting that crime. Even smaller initiatives like the bike patrols have led to an increase in the detection of street offences," he said.