BY CHLOE STUART
A student healthcare worker became a victim of “opportunistic” theft, after she returned home from a long shift on the COVID-19 frontline.
Alex Cullen had finished working at a Peninsula Health site, when she returned to her home in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs and forgot to close the gate behind her.
The next morning Ms Cullen noticed her brother’s wallet and keys had gone missing from his car, which was parked on the property.
“It was completely opportunistic,” Ms Cullen said.
“They just stole anything they could.”
The family’s security camera captured the two thieves on the property early Saturday morning.
Ms Cullen said police were contacted soon after the incident.
“They said that there was a Dandenong-based gang that was going through suburbs [during] curfew and looking for cars that were easy targets,” she said.
According to the latest statistics from the Crime Statistics Agency, there were 56,774 thefts from a motor vehicle in Victoria in the past year.
This was a 14.5 per cent increase from the previous year. It is not yet known how stage four restrictions might impact these statistics.
Ms Cullen is a Monash University physiotherapy student who currently works three jobs at multiple hospitals.
She volunteered to be part of the COVID-19 surge workforce to help address skilled labour shortages, an initiative of the Victorian Department of Health.
“No one wants to work on a COVID ward, but I wanted to help the community.”
She was called last minute to assist patients from the aged care sector who were COVID-positive the night the theft took place.
“It’s hard because you’ve got patients with cognitive deficits who don’t realise they’re COVID-positive,” she said.
“But you’ve got to do it. You’ve just got to help out where you can.”
Ms Cullen said she was furious she had been targeted after volunteering her time to assist elderly COVID-positive patients.
“At the end of the day, I’m putting my health at risk to help the community get out of this situation and there are people out there who are just perpetuating the cycle of COVID and lockdown.
“It was really disheartening to see after a shift like that.”
Ms Cullen feared the severity of the health crisis is lost on many Victorians.
“There’s multiple people like them breaking curfew, breaking the law, and it’s the reason that we’re still in this mess right now,” she said.
Bailey Melzak works as an orderly at Holmesglen Hospital and is studying biomedicine at Monash University.
He said a lack of police presence on the roads was potentially part of the problem.
“During the first lockdown I got pulled over, to my surprise. But I haven’t seen a police car since the curfew began,” Mr Melzak said.
“It’s quite worrying because if there’s no one checking that people are following curfew, then there’s nothing to stop people from breaking the rules.”
Anyone with further information on the theft is urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Alternatively, file a report online at crimestoppersvic.com.au.