Police have charged a Sydney bus driver over alleged acid attacks on cars parked at a university and a shopping centre in Sydney’s north-west.
The 53-year-old allegedly poured an acid-like substance on cars at Macquarie University and the Macquarie Centre between February and June.
Officers arrested the man at a home in Ryde on Friday and took him to Ryde police station where he was charged with 16 counts of malicious damage.
Examination of the cars found that the acid-like substance had caused the paint to be stripped from the affected areas.
Superintendent Stephen Egginton told reporters in Sydney on Monday the man was identified with the help of photographs taken by a victim.
“We were able to identify the offender as being a bus driver and that linked into the times of the offences across the areas where they occurred,” he said.
“It’s important members of the community feel they can report these matters to us, because the early indications were that there was a reluctance from some … to come forward.”
Police were alerted to the alleged vandalism earlier this year after drivers shared their experiences on a Chinese-language forum before setting up a support group on the Chinese social media platform WeChat.
The alleged incidents were reported to Macquarie University and the Macquarie Centre and police from the Ryde Local Area Command commenced an investigation.
Simon Jia, who set up an email address for victims to report their ordeals, said some people went to police but were told officers may not be able to do anything about it.
“It broke my heart when I saw many [forum] posts suggesting people to remove all decorations which could identify our cultural background,” he told AAP on Monday.
“As a proud Australian citizen and father of two, I decided not to look aside.”
Mr Jia said he had noticed racial hate banners in the Ryde area six months ago.
“The reason why I started the group is out of the worry that if this crime is by any chance racially motivated, it might escalate if nobody did anything,” he said.
Superintendent Egginton said the substance was yet to be tested and detectives were considering all potential motives, including whether the attacks were racially motivated.
Detectives are also working to put together a potential damage bill from the crimes.
The bus driver has been granted bail and is scheduled to appear at Burwood Local Court on August 21.