The locals of a town devastated by fires have issued a grim warning to those thinking of taking advantage of the community with a simple message scrawled on a roadside sign.
“U loot, we shoot,” it reads.
A picture of the ominous sign was snapped by an AAP photographer and has been shared widely online.
It appears at the side of a road in the NSW town of Conjola Park, which was devastated by fires on New Year’s Eve with more than 50 homes destroyed.
Photos of the town, a popular tourist destination north of Ulladulla, show the decimation it has endured in the past week.
After a photo of the sign was shared on Facebook, many seemed to support its dark sentiment, however police have warned people not to take matters into their own hands if they suspect people of looting.
“I will gladly pay for more signs,” one person wrote on Facebook.
“Excellent sign. (Should) be posted everywhere… way too many low life thieving pieces of s*** around, and unfortunately lots live amongst us everyday,” another commented.
On Saturday, NSW Police Force Deputy Commissioner Gary Worboys issued a warning following reported break-ins and stealing offences within bushfire-affected areas.
Both uniformed and plain-clothes police are patrolling areas where residents have evacuated and homes have been partially destroyed, authorities warned.
“Police and emergency services are at the ready to prevent loss of life, livestock and property, and I am disgusted that anyone would target these vulnerable communities at this time,” Deputy Comm Worboys said.
“People in these areas have already lost members of their communities, seen property destroyed and suffered emotional turmoil from the recent fire activity, they do not need the added stress of looters stealing what little they might have left.
“Local police numbers are being bolstered by officers from specialist commands to ensure regular patrols are conducted throughout the bushfire-affected areas.”
It comes after a 19-year-old man was arrested on Friday following items being stolen from a NSW home vacated due to the bushfires in Batlow, south-east of Wagga Wagga.
The man allegedly searched the home before stealing a Ford Falcon sedan.
While tourists have fled the town, hurting the local economy, farmers in the area have also been devastated by the fires.
Farmers in southeast NSW have lost an estimated 2800 animals to bushfires since Christmas with that toll likely to rise.
The NSW Department of Primary Industries says it is providing struggling farmers with emergency fodder and water, animal care, livestock assessment, and stock euthanasia and burial where necessary.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack said on Monday helping farmers access their properties was a priority.
“Many cannot get back to their properties but on the provision of stock and fodder, we thank the people who have done hay runs and made donations,” the deputy prime minister told reporters in Canberra.
He said the federal government would deploy 100 vets to ensure livestock carcasses around the country were disposed correctly.
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