Gang cri­sis ‘real’

The Weekend Australian - - FRONT PAGE - SI­MONE FOX KOOB TESSA AKERMAN

The vic­tim of a vi­o­lent home in­va­sion in Mel­bourne’s west says the gov­ern­ment and po­lice are “wrong” to deny the state is fac­ing an African gang cri­sis.

The vic­tim of a vi­o­lent home in­va­sion in Mel­bourne’s west, who was slapped and threat­ened while the fam­ily house was ran­sacked, says the gov­ern­ment and po­lice are “wrong” to deny the state is fac­ing an African gang cri­sis, urg­ing lead­ers to visit vic­tims of crime.

Val, who did not want her sur­name pub­lished, was mind­ing her nephew’s fam­ily home last week when a group of more than 10 youths of African ap­pear­ance shat­tered the glass back door and trashed the home, forc­ing her to sit in the front room while they threat­ened her with base­ball bats and stole tech­nol­ogy and money.

Nine days af­ter the at­tack, 59year-old Val has watched with in­creased con­cern as the state gov­ern­ment and po­lice have stepped back from la­belling a re­cent of spate of youth crime as a “cri­sis”. Vic­to­ria Po­lice Chief Com­mis­sioner Gra­ham Ash­ton at a press con­fer­ence on Thurs­day rub­bished claims that Mel­bur­ni­ans felt un­safe to go out to din­ner.

“I got very an­gry when I saw the po­lice press con­fer­ence. I thought you re­ally need to open your eyes and look at what’s hap­pen­ing. You need to visit these ar­eas which are quite highly pop­u­lated,” Val told The Week­end Aus­tralian.

“They are gangs. You talk about bad mo­tor­cy­cle boys, well hang on a minute, these are no bet­ter than the mo­tor­cy­cle boys. They are run­ning around and ter­ror­is­ing peo­ple, and they’re say­ing they are not gangs, they are say­ing there is no prob­lem in Vic­to­ria. They are wrong.”

Her com­ments come as Home Af­fairs Min­is­ter Peter Dut­ton yes­ter­day said Premier Daniel An­drews had cre­ated the crime “mess” through ap­point­ments of mag­is­trates and judges and not hav­ing ad­e­quate sen­tences and de­ter­rences.

“The so­lu­tion in part is to make sure that the ap­point­ment that you’re mak­ing to the mag­is­trates court are peo­ple that will im­pose sen­tences and will pro­vide some de­ter­rence to peo­ple re­peat­edly com­ing be­fore the courts,” Mr Dut­ton told 3AW.

“If you’re ap­point­ing civil lib­er­tar­i­ans to the mag­is­trates court over a long pe­riod of time, you will get soft sen­tences and that’s the re­al­ity ... I’m blam­ing the state gov­ern­ment for mak­ing ap­point­ments which I think you’re see­ing the con­se­quences of now.”

Vic­to­rian At­tor­ney-Gen­eral Martin Pakula later called Mr Dut­ton’s com­ments “com­pletely un­war­ranted and un­true”.

“No gov­ern­ment in re­cent mem­ory has done more to ap­point former pros­e­cu­tors to our bench than this gov­ern­ment and that has been some­thing that we have done very con­sciously,” he said.

Vic­to­ria’s African com­mu­nity lead­ers and po­lice met yes­ter­day for the first time in a se­ries of task­force talks to tackle the is­sue. Be­fore the meet­ing, Deputy Com­mis­sioner of Re­gional Op­er­a­tions An­drew Crisp told the ABC there was “not a cri­sis in this state in re­la­tion to crime, or the be­hav­iour we’re see­ing of a rel­a­tively small num­ber of peo­ple of African back­ground”.

Stay­ing at her sis­ter’s home in Mel­bourne’s west, Val said these kind of com­ments were sidelin­ing a real prob­lem.

“It’s only the vic­tims that can tell them what’s hap­pen­ing, and how they feel,” she said. “I’d like to say, how would you feel if it was your mother, in your home?

“They need to have the re­sources; the po­lice that can po­lice the area. And the gov­ern­ment need to re­ally recog­nise the fact there is a prob­lem in the com­mu­nity, there is prob­lem in the African com­mu­nity.”

Val has taken six weeks leave from her vol­un­teer­ing job at the Red Cross while she re­cov­ers. She says she hopes some­thing con­struc­tive can be done so the rest of the African com­mu­nity doesn’t suf­fer from the ac­tions of a few.

“Where I work in the Red Cross I do work with a lot of African peo­ple, and they are beau­ti­ful peo­ple, re­ally sweet na­tured. When my hus­band got carted off to hospi­tal they went into the tea room and they prayed for him,” she said.

A petrol sta­tion in Narre Warren in Mel­bourne’s south­east was held up in the early hours of yes­ter­day by two men of African ap­pear­ance armed with a ma­chete and large rock. They de­manded cash from the reg­is­ter and fled.

‘They are run­ning around and ter­ror­is­ing peo­ple, and they’re say­ing they are not gangs’ VAL HOME IN­VA­SION VIC­TIM

DAVID GERAGHTY

Val, a vic­tim of a home in­va­sion, in Mel­bourne yes­ter­day

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