Residents say the Ecoville Community centre in Tarniet is being trashed. Picture: Nicole Garmston.
Residents say the Ecoville Community centre in Tarniet is being trashed. Picture: Nicole Garmston.

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.

A group called Menace to Society has sprayed tags on trashed sites in Victoria. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia
A group called Menace to Society has sprayed tags on trashed sites in Victoria. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia

"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.

Police officers were forced to retreat in Werribee after stones and metal poles were thrown. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia.
Police officers were forced to retreat in Werribee after stones and metal poles were thrown. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia.

"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.

Only one arrest has been made in relation to the Werribee incident. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia.
Only one arrest has been made in relation to the Werribee incident. Picture: Nicole Garmston/ News Corp Australia.

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.

Neighbours watched on while police investigated. Picture: Nicole Garmston. Picture: News Corp Australia
Neighbours watched on while police investigated. Picture: Nicole Garmston. Picture: News Corp Australia

"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."

Share your story - benjamin.graham@news.com.au or follow @bengrahamjourno on Twitter.



‘This is an open revolt’: Queensland goes rogue

‘This is an open revolt’: Queensland goes rogue

QLD could spell the end of Turnbull's leadership

Woman hospitalised after wombat attack at zoo

Woman hospitalised after wombat attack at zoo

A woman has been taken to hospital following the attack

Local Partners