End of ethnic crime squad
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.