Posted on June 30, 2011

Gang Feud Feeds Public Safety Fears

Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline, June 29, 2011

STEVE CANNANE, PRESENTER: Victorian police have admitted they have concerns for public safety in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs after a series of drive-by shootings and fire-bombing.

It’s understood two feuding crime gangs are behind the attacks in three suburbs over the past nine days.

The situation is being taken seriously enough for police to put dozens of extra officers on the streets and send the Middle East Crime Squad to the area.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: Drive-by shootings and a fire-bombing have frayed nerves in Melbourne’s north-western suburbs.

I have four children from the age of 14 to three, and you know, I’m just concerned for them.

It’s just nerve-racking. We heard some, well, as we thought, crackers going off the other night, but it evidently wasn’t; it was gunshots going off. And then last night, you know, just a few streets away in Whitford Street . . .

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: One person has been arrested and police believe two gangs who are alleged to be involved in drug dealing are behind the attacks.

Only yesterday police were sending a strong message.

GRAHAM ASHTON, VIC. POLICE ASST. COMMISSIONER: We’re also here today to reassure the community that we are not tolerant in any way to this sort of behaviour, and the sort of people that are out there conducting themselves in this way need to get the continued strong message from Victoria Police that it is not being tolerated.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The message doesn’t seem to be getting through however, and the head of one of the families who was the target of an attack accused police not doing enough to protect his family.

JOURNALIST: How co-operative have the families been?

GRAHAM ASHTON: Uncooperative.

JOURNALIST: What sort of response have you got from them?

GRAHAM ASHTON: Two word responses, and also comments I think today to the media around how they’ve been treated by police which are completely wrong.

STEPHEN MUTTON, VICTORIA POLICE: Unfortunately we’ve got a number of shootings which has escalated where members of the public are being put in danger and that is of matter concern and risk to us.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The Santiago Taskforce, which investigates crime gangs of Middle Eastern origin, is now involved. There’s now a strong police presence in the area and the State Government wants to make sure it stays that way.

TED BAILLIEU, VICTORIAN POLICE: We’ve sought–sought and been given–assurances that additional resources are being provided, and I understand that’s the case. I’m not in a position to get into any of the operational details, but we’ve been assured that progress is being made.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Authorities are hoping to put an end to the violence before it escalates.

Hamish Fitzsimmons, Lateline.