The Age

Wednesday 21 July 1999

Women turn to armed robbery

Brett Foley
Crime Reporter
The Age

Figures show the number of women committing armed robberies is rising, and police fear the attacks are becoming more violent.

Police also said yesterday that women were increasingly using syringes as their weapon of choice.

Victoria Police figures until the end of June show a 44 per cent rise in the number of women aged under 20 committing armed robberies, compared with the previous 12 months.

Detective Inspector Ray McLeod-Dryden, head of the Embona Task Force investigating armed robberies on ``soft targets'', said the age of the offenders was a concern.

``Most (female) offenders are in the 20 to 30 age group but there is a disturbing increase in the number of females under 20 charged,'' he said.

Inspector McLeod-Dryden said it appeared that drug involvement and gambling problems were the two main reasons for women, and other offenders, committing robberies.

He said the incidence of robberies involving syringes had trebled in the past 12 months.

``This supports the drug involvement and we are very concerned at how widely syringes are being used,'' he said.

The Embona Taskforce conducted a survey of 337 offenders caught and charged before April.

Inspector McLeod-Dryden said fears were confirmed that drug involvement was a big factor in armed robberies, with 72 per cent of robberies in the survey linked to drugs. He said 25 per cent of robberies were people re-offending and 17 per cent were committed by people on bail.

Inspector McLeod-Dryden said the survey also showed the rising problem of false reporting of armed robberies. Nine per cent of robberies in the survey were false reports. By reporting an armed robbery people can apply for the reimbursement of their benefits to agencies like Centrelink.

He said police were consulting with Centrelink on how police could deal with the problem.

Yesterday a 72-year-old woman was attacked about 12.30pm by a teenager wielding a syringe at the Sandown Park railway station.

During a struggle, the victim received a puncture wound to the stomach and will have to undergo blood tests.

A girl, 17, is expected to be charged with armed robbery and intentionally causing serious injury.