More than 50 kilograms of drugs and 24 firearms have been seized in the south-west's largest firearm-focused operation in history.
Local specialist police units and Melbourne's public order response team have attended dozens of residential and rural properties during the five-day operation, which started on Sunday.
Nine people were arrested during the raids, which netted 24 firearms, more than 30 kilograms of cannabis, 15 grams of methamphetamine, 12 grams of MDMA and prescription medication, including morphine.
Warrnambool police Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Asenjo said the operation focused on illicit firearms, as well as those who legitimately possess them and people subjected to Firearm Prohibition Orders (FPO).
Introduced in May 2018, FPOs prohibit people, including serious violent offenders, from acquiring, possessing or carrying a firearm or firearm-related item.
Detective Senior Sergeant Asenjo said FPOs gave police sweeping powers to search those subjected to the orders, including searching their premises without a warrant.
"This week we've conducted nine FPO inspections and were pleased to see a vast majority of those on the orders were compliant," he said.
"However four offenders were arrested and charged with other offences, including drug possession, handling stolen goods and family violence-related offending.
"They are now on notice and are well aware that we will keep looking to disrupt and deter criminal activity."
The detective said a further six search warrants were executed in relation to the possession of illicit firearms and/or drugs, and over 75 checks of licensed firearm holders.
He said a search warrant executed at a Winslow property uncovered a stash of illegal firearms and mature cannabis plants on Tuesday.
Police seized 19 registered and four unregistered firearms, as well as close to 30 kilograms of cannabis.
A 48-year-old Woolsthorpe man was arrested and subsequently charged with offences, including cultivating a narcotic plant and possessing a traffickable quantity of unregistered firearms, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years' imprisonment.
Raids were also conducted at properties in Warrnambool's Gay Street, Armstrong Grove, Otway Road, Osbourne Court and in Kirkstall.
Police arrested and charged:
- A 51-year-old Kirkstall man with possessing steroids, cannabis and testosterone, and outstanding family violence offences
- A 68-year-old Warrnambool man with handling stolen goods
- A 30-year-old Warrnambool man with possessing the drug ice and cannabis
- A 42-year-old Warrnambool man with outstanding family violence matters
- A 29-year-old Warrnambool woman with possessing cannabis and MDMA
- A 35-year-old Hawthorn woman with possessing MDMA, cannabis and morphine
- A 23-year-old Warrnambool man with firearm and weapon offences
- A 57-year-old Warrnambool man with possessing cannabis.
Of the 75 licence checks, six people were issued with notices to improve storage.
Detective Senior Sergeant Asenjo said the five-day firearm-focused operation was the biggest in history.
"We understand illicit firearms can be used as currency in the criminal underworld, and that licensed holders can be a little bit complacent in the storing of firearms, which makes them a target," he said.
"We have law abiding people that have every right to possess firearms under the legislation, yet are targeted by criminals.
"The theft of firearms is a significant issue and we want to be clear that owning and possessing a firearm comes with strict responsibilities. We are ensuring that those responsibilities are being met with the primary objective of making our community as safe as it can be."
Warrnambool police tasking and coordination manager Inspector Josh Tink said illicit firearms posed a serious risk to community safety.
"Police make no apologies for turning up unannounced on the doorsteps of those subject to an FPO, or anyone else in possession of an illegal and dangerous firearm," he said.
"As you can see from this week's operation, police have absolutely no hesitation in seizing illicit firearms or firearm-related material and putting the offender before a court."
Inspector Tink said unsecured firearms were sitting ducks for serious criminals.
"We will continue to regularly check how owners are storing their firearms to make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands," he said.
"We will continue to run similar operations to seize firearms and other weapons from violent and dangerous people, as well as negligent firearm owners, to ensure the safety of south-west Victorians."
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