A group of young African men traumatized several people when they went on a violent rampage in Melbourne’s west on Thursday night, Jan.4, further fueling public concerns over a so-called African youth gang crisis in the city.
Victoria Police Commander Russell said young men of African appearance were involved in several violent crimes over a three-hour period in the same area, which included serious assaults and two home invasions.
“These are horrendous offenses, no member of our community should be a victim of these types of offenses,” Barret said, reported The Australian.
“At this stage all of the offenders are described by the victims as African youth, and so our investigation is focusing on that,” he said.
“This is incredibly concerning, the behaviors are abhorrent. It’s just thuggish behavior by young people in our community who have no apparent care for the rights and well-being of their fellow citizens.
“We’re not saying it’s organised, but we’re certainly saying they’re behaving in street gang behaviors.”
— 7 News Sydney (@7NewsSydney) January 5, 2018
The most terrifying incident, involved the home invasion by a group of men who assaulted a 59-year-old woman, leaving her with cuts and bruises.
Four men smashed the home’s glass door and forced their way in at 11.30 p.m. and a further group of 10 men came in to ransack the house the woman was house minding. The men stole electrical items and car keys, said a statement from the police.
The woman’s husband is in intensive care after he had a heart attack on Christmas Eve, reported The Australian.
“She’s traumatized. I wonder how we’ll be able to stay here,” a distraught family member told the broadsheet. “How are you meant to go back to normal after this?”
Police said the first incident of the night occurred two hours before the home invasion when a teenage boy was robbed and hit with a baseball bat and dragged on the ground. After the attack, the boy was hospitalized and later released on Friday.
Another teenage boy was assaulted just after midnight by three to four males, who also stole his mobile phone. The men kicked and punched the boy as he lay on the ground.
Not long after that a second home invasion occurred. The residents armed themselves and the three men who broke into their home fled the scene but not before stealing a mobile phone, said the police.
Police later that night chased a vehicle (which was stolen) described to be involved in one of the attacks. The vehicle crashed into a fence and a power pole but its occupants managed to flee the crash scene and outrun police.
Barrett said it was too early to conclude if the criminal acts were perpetrated by the same group but it appears likely given that the crimes were committed in close proximity, reported The Age.
— Chris 'ROY' Taylor (@chrisroytaylor) January 3, 2018
Thursday night’s crime spree comes in the wake of public attention to Melbourne’s so-called African crime gang crisis and a string of headline-grabbing crimes attributed to gangs of African youth, mostly South Sudanese.
Most of the South Sundanese community in Melbourne came to Australia as refugees displaced by conflict during 2003 to 2006. About 0.1 percent of Victoria’s population was born in Sudan or South Sudan, official data shows, reported the ABC.
Barrett said that the youths committing the crimes on Thursday night not only hurt their victims, but their community as a whole.
“From a Victorian community perspective and the western suburbs of Melbourne’s perspective it’s incredibly disappointing,” he said.
“The vast majority, in fact, just about the entire population of the western suburbs are law abiding decent people … from all backgrounds, whether they are African, Caucasian, Asian, Indian, it is a very multicultural area,” he said. “They all get along, work together and live together harmoniously. These young people are impacting on the breadth of that community.”
Barrett added that Thursday night’s crime spree places pressure on the broader African community.
“I think it’s fortunate that a number of African community leaders have spoken out against some of the behaviors of young people in recent days,” he said, reported the ABC.
“I was sort of in disbelief when the police said gangs don’t exist. Call it for what it is."
— 3AW Melbourne (@3AW693) January 1, 2018
The behavior of the youth gangs has discredited all the hard work that people in the Sudanese community have done, Yoa said.
“This is just a small percentage within our community,” he said of the criminal elements.
Yoa said the wider community in Melbourne is sick and tired of what is going on.
The authorities’ approach to dealing with the issue has also come under scrutiny, with critics saying that the police have been ineffective. They have also been accused of talking down the issue.
Figures from Victoria’s Crime Statistics Agency show an overrepresentation of Sudanese and Kenyan-born offenders in some crime categories, reports the ABC.