End of eth­nic crime squad

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - AVA BENNY- MOR­RI­SON CRIME RE­PORTER

FOR the first time in decades NSW will not have a crime squad tar­get­ing one par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group — and mul­ti­cul­tural com­mu­nity lead­ers are de­lighted.

NSW’s Mid­dle East­ern Or­gan­ised Crime and Gang squads are set to merge by the end of Novem­ber, and po­ten­tially given the new ti­tle of “crim­i­nal groups”, a name that can­not of­fend any­one.

It will mean the end of hav­ing po­lice squads deal­ing with a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic crime prob- lem, a prac­tice that dates back to the 1970s.

The MEOCS brand has become so no­to­ri­ous that some of the squad’s crim­i­nal tar­gets have the let­ters tat­tooed on their bod­ies, and com­mu­nity lead­ers claim it casts an un­fair stereo­type.

“We have al­ways been against the nam­ing of it but never had any con­cern about the ob­jec­tive of it,” Le­banese Mus­lim As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Samier Dan­dan said.

Is­lamic Friend­ship As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Keysar Trad said eth­nic de­scrip­tors tended to be “very di­vi­sive” and im­plied that crime was an im­ported prob­lem.

“The politicians opened Pan­dora’s box when they eth­ni­cised crime a few decades ago,” he said. “It didn’t solve any prob­lems, it just led to scape­goat­ing where we have sec­tions of so­ci­ety point­ing the fin­gers of blame at other sec­tions of so­ci­ety.”

MEOCS was es­tab­lished in 2006 on the back of the suc­cess­ful Task Force Gain, formed af­ter the 2005 Cronulla ri­ots.

In the 1970s the or­gan­ised crime fo­cus was around Ital­ian groups like the Cal­abrian mafia in coun­try NSW.

In the late ’80s and ’90s, the rise of Viet­namese gangs sparked the for­ma­tion of an Asian Crime Squad. That group now falls un­der the um­brella of the Or­gan­ised Crime Squad.

In the 2000s the fo­cus shifted to Le­banese gangs and crime fam­i­lies around Bankstown and Punch­bowl.

In a bid to broaden the scope of who and what can be tar­geted, the new squad will not have any ref­er­ence to eth­nic­ity or gangs.

The move comes as Syd­ney’s crim­i­nal land­scape shifts, and var­i­ous crime fam­i­lies and fig­ures en­gage in a power strug­gle.

The ar­rest or demise of ma­jor play­ers from the city’s no­to­ri­ous fam­i­lies has cre­ated a power vacuum in some lu­cra­tive pock­ets of the un­der­world, po­lice al­lege

State Crime Com­mand As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Mal Lanyon said or­gan­ised crime had become more fluid over the past 10 years and tra­di­tional gangs or groups didn’t stay within their bound­aries any more.

“We fo­cus on crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, not eth­nic­ity or any other de­scrip­tor,” he said.

“The new com­bi­na­tion of gangs and MEOCS is to en­sure we have a bet­ter reach and broader fo­cus on any crim­i­nal group.

“The two by them­selves, (means) there are re­stric­tions of what we can tar­get be­cause if you don’t fall within the Mid­dle East­ern or­gan­ised crime def­i­ni­tion or tra­di­tional def­i­ni­tion of a gang, you don’t nec­es­sar­ily fall within ei­ther char­ter.”

The merger has mostly been sup­ported by the front­line po­lice.

“If you put the two to­gether and have a gen­eral or­gan­ised crime squad you could look at any­thing,” one in­ves­ti­ga­tor said.

An­other source said there would still be is­sues with crime among Syd­ney’s Mid­dle East­ern com­mu­nity but it wasn’t nec­es­sary to have an eth­ni­cally-based squad.

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