APEX GANG: ‘We’re not trying to cover this up’
VICTORIA Police is not afraid to call out high crime rates among African youth after a spate of violent incidents, according to its acting chief commissioner Shane Patton.
An attempted ambush on officers, a shopping centre cop bashing, an out-of-control house party riot which forced heavily-armed police to retreat and a mass brawl at St Kilda beach have been reportedly linked to youth groups this month.
The police have played down the claims - saying it is too early to confirm whether the incidents or offenders are linked.
However, Mr Patton distanced himself from a local superintendent who downplayed the issue after a violent attack on a sergeant who was trying to arrest an African boy accused of shoplifting.
"The leaders in the African community readily and openly say they do have issues with a small cohort of African youth who are committing high-end crimes," Mr Patton told The Australian.
"We acknowledge that, we don't shy away from that at all. We will target anyone who's involved in any criminal activity and if that's African youths, so be it."
It comes as fresh reports claim that the Ecoville Community Park in Tarneit, in Melbourne's west, has been turned into a no-go zone by a youth group calling themselves Menace To Society - the same Apex-linked group which was thought to be behind the carnage at a Werribee Airbnb property last week.
The Herald Sun spoke to residents who say the offenders hijacked Tarneit's community centre and park, going on nightly vandalism sprees, trashing homes, and terrorising families.
However, Mr Patton has previously said Menace to Society are nothing but an "alcohol-affected mob".
"These people probably are a menace to society in the way that they have conducted themselves," he told 3AW last week.
"But, we have no intelligence to say such a gang exists.
"It's young people trying to claim some esteem and we shouldn't be acknowledging that. They've performed criminal acts and we're hunting them down."
Police Minister Lisa Neville also told The Australian that African-born young men were over-represented in crime statistics and were causing "great harm and fear in the community".
"We are not trying to cover this up," Ms Neville said. "It has been of significant concern to us and to Victoria Police.
"We've had additional investment in the gang squad (and) in intelligence measures in order to try and disrupt their behaviour."
Officers have, so far, only arrested one teenager in retaliation to the chaotic scenes in Werribee last week.
Heavily-armed riot police were forced to retreat as rooms were trashed, neighbours terrorised and officers pelted with rocks after they rushed to the out of control house party.
Detectives have charged a 15-year-old Kurunjang boy with aggravated burglary, criminal damage and armed robbery.
"Police continue to investigate the criminal damage to the home and anticipate making further arrests while the investigation takes place," a spokeswoman for Victoria Police said.
"Police will make an application to remand the 15-year-old to appear in court at a later date."
Police told news.com.au last week that officers in Melbourne were sent a memo earlier this month saying they are at risk of being lured into ambushes by violent teenagers.
The memo states officers in a patrol car in Tarneit tailing a vehicle driven by a boy as young as 13 saw up to 40 teens of African appearance running towards a laneway, the Herald Sun reported.
"Wyndham Crime Investigation Unit sent a circular to all members within their police service area earlier this week following an incident in Tarneit on December 11," a spokesman for police told news.com.au.
"During the incident police believed the behaviour of the youths at the location may have been a deliberate lure, in order to compromise member safety."
However, he added that the incident was isolated and nobody was injured.
Mr Patton said the problem wasn't solely a policing issue.
"We continue to work with the African community to try and address the root causes, which isn't just a policing issue," he told the Herald Sun.
"It's about disengagement, it's about employment, it's about a whole range of things."
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