NO wonder Victoria Police is furious that we yesterday published excerpts of a leaked police report on Asian gangs.
Some of the truth about Melbourne’s ethnic crime is out at last, you see.
Worse, police command must now talk about what it’s hidden for so long.
That leaked report in fact reveals little that a sharp-eyed reader wouldn’t have figured out over the years, with one news item after another about people chopped up outside nightclubs, stabbed in Springvale, arrested in their dozens for drug trafficking or chased to their deaths from Asian-themed events.
Let’s flick through its four brief pages.
As the Herald Sun reported, it says we have at least half a dozen Asian gangs with “extensive” membership. Check.
They can be incredibly violent, and favour machetes. Check.
They like to hang out at the “Asian” theme nights we increasingly see at inner-city nightclubs. Check again.
They’re getting worse and if police don’t crack down it’s “highly likely . . . that a person will be murdered”.
Actually, more people will be murdered. But check again.
See? Nothing new, and we kept secret sensitive details of the policing operations recommended by the acting sergeant whose report this is.
So why is police command putting it about that we were reckless in publishing no more than this bleeding–and I do mean bleeding–obvious?
Here’s one clue. We did also say this report called for an Asian crime squad–which is just what former chief commissioner Christine Nixon scrapped four years ago.
Time to cut to the chase. It’s Nixon in particular who foolishly got police to play dumb about precisely the kind of thing this report discusses.
Never mind that certain ethnic groups–Aborigines, Pacific Islanders, Sudanese, Lebanese and Vietnamese in particular–have imprisonment rates much higher than the average.
Under Nixon, ethnic crime became a topic the police did not discuss–and at times deceitfully denied. In my opinion, disbanding the Asian crime squad was in part a sign of that denial.
But Nixon also refused to release data on ethnic crime rates, and intervened in the last federal election to falsely claim “Sudanese refugees are actually under-represented in the crime statistics”.
She even banned the word “gang”, leading to this exchange with Neil Mitchell on 3AW :
Nixon: What we saw in that more recent incident was one of two gangs, which I gather was around two women, which started fighting.
Mitchell: But gangs are an issue.
Nixon: Well, we’re seeing some groups of people. I’m not describing them as gangs.
Mitchell: Well, you just did.
Nixon: Well, you know what I mean.
Mitchell: I thought the word gang was banned by your media people.
Nixon: Well, it is . . . it’s got connotations. . . . These are groups of people who come together and just cause problems together.
Farcical. As if banning a word makes what it describes vanish.
Yet her police got the message. Take this Herald Sun report on attacks on Indian cabbies around Flemington: “Police will not officially acknowledge any particular ethnic group is a target, or that any other group is carrying out the crimes. But in every case the victims told police their attackers were African.”
Then there was the police “multicultural liaison officer” in Dandenong who in 2007 tried the Nixon method in waving away a spate of bashings by African gangs.
The Sudanese in the area were actually “doing quite well”, he claimed, and the real problem was merely one of perception: “People might see 30 or 40 Sudanese gathering in a group and think they must be a gang.”
Only after scared residents and cranky talkback hosts revolted at such flim flam did Assistant Commissioner Paul Evans concede his officers were struggling to deal with newcomers from a “culture” of violence and with a “tribe mentality”, and needed help.
And under new Chief Commissioner Simon Overland we’ve seen the same policy of denial.
He, too, has refused to release data on ethnicity and crime, and wouldn’t even say that many of the recent attacks on Indian students in Melbourne were by people from ethnic backgrounds–Lebanese, Maori and Pacific Islanders in particular. Not even when Indian papers railed at our “white Australian” racism did he set the record straight.
Indeed, you see this police culture of deception and dog-ate-my-homework excuses in a recent Victoria University study on those Indian bashings.
“Police interviewees . . . suggested that without being able to draw on specific data about offenders from the Victoria Police database, they could not speak with certainty about offender profiles. . . .” it said.
Then this dust in your eyes: “Police officers did stress, however, that anecdotal reporting suggested that where groups of offenders were responsible for assaults against international students, there was no evidence of ethnic or racial homogenisation within the groups, with the majority being mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity groups of offenders across the cultural spectrum, sometimes including but definitely not limited to young male offenders of Anglo-Celtic background, and sometimes not including Anglo-background youth at all. . . .”
Sound like word games to you?
Yet this same study pointed out that almost everyone else except the police knew just who was doing the bashing: “. . . those who were known to be involved in crime are often relatively new arrivals to Australia themselves.”
You may excuse the police, saying they’re just being nice. They’re trying not to make newcomers feel unwelcome, or our racists feel licensed.
These are honourable motives. As the son of immigrants, I know many migrants, whether African, Lebanese or Anglo, are a blessing to this country.
Only this week the principal of Melbourne’s newest selective high school, Nossal High in Berwick, said more than 80 per cent of his students were of non-Anglo ancestry, having that wonderful get-stuck-in spirit you often see in the immigrating kind.
BUT Victoria Police’s secrecy has a price. We’ve seen ourselves damned around the world as racists, for instance, for the crimes of new ethnic minorities. Worse, we’ve seen crime fighting compromised.
I don’t just mean that police on the beat say ethnic gangs have little respect for a force they now take to be weak.
Consider also a recent police appeal for the public’s help to find an African man who’d tried to drag a 14-year-old Brighton girl into his car.
Our don’t-mention-the-race police once more refused to note the man’s most obvious characteristic, and described him merely as having a “dark complexion”. What, is he Greek?
All well intentioned, I repeat. But there’s one reason in particular we must at last be more frank.
We need to understand there’s often a risk in bringing in traumatised and badly educated people from war zones–Lebanon, then Cambodia and now Somalia–or from backward cultures and angry faiths.
Until we understand how much culture matters in helping–or hindering–assimilation, we’ll have many more humiliated newcomers here wondering how the hell they can fit in to a society as alien as ours, or at least get some respect.
We’ll also find more such bruised people seeking the company of others with their background–and their resentments. And no sweet lies from the police will help you then.