Police are cracking down on illegally-stored firearms in an attempt to reduce the "alarming" rate of gun thefts across Gippsland.
Hundreds of firearms have been stolen across the region in recent years – many due to being stored in non-compliant gun safes or left for thieves to prey on in places likes cars and garden sheds.
Divisional firearms officer Leading Senior Constable Laurie Armstrong said more than 4000 firearms were being stolen across Australia each year – many of them never recovered.
"Often they're being stolen from insufficient storage facilities on places like farms and workshops where safes are set up," Senior Constable Armstrong said.
"We're finding a lot of safes are from the old days and are no longer appropriate – like the school locker or clothing locker which are basically made out of light tin.
"Many of them have a simple lock and they're quite easy to bend the door on and manipulate."
Firearms are being stolen from sheds on farms and in some cases safes which even comply with legislation, including the sawn-off shotgun held by Leading Senior Constable Armstrong – found dumped in a front yard of a Morwell home.
"This one was stolen from a residential place in Morwell ... this and others were stolen and as it was it was a very expensive under and over shotgun used in the field and game competitions," he said.
"Some crook was able to get their hands on it, they cut it down and destroyed it basically as far as its value as a firearm and used it for armed robberies."
Gun owners are also being reminded to think smartly about where their firearms are stored given some had recently been stolen from sheds using power and hand tools located near the safe itself.
"There's been a rise, it's been fairly consistent and it's one of those things we'd like to reduce because every time a firearm's stolen it's another firearm in the hands of a criminal in the community," Leading Senior Constable Armstrong said.
"We're looking for something that's not easily penetrable ... and basically these days what we're looking for is a professionally-built safe."
Family members who are concerned about an elderly member with firearms are also encouraged to speak to the police about the best way to deal with the situation.
"Sometimes there's family members who become concerned of their senior members of the family who are licensed and may be showing signs of dementia," Leading Senior Constable Armstrong said.
"They're best to make contact with the likes of me for advice on transfers or sales of these firearms and just the best way to manage the situation."
The divisional firearms officer can be phoned at Morwell Police Station on 5131 5072.