The Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews has promised to give Victorian police all of the resources and prosecuting power necessary to tackle the growing rate of youth crime in the state. This promise is to address the ‘African gangs’ issue that had put a spotlight on organised crime in Melbourne.
After taking a week off, Mr Andrews returned to work stating that Melbourne was above all a safe city but that there was no place for criminal behaviour.
He said that he would not excuse people who claimed that circumstances such as poverty were a reasonable explanation for committing crime. Mr Andrews said that Melbourne had seen a number of “nasty incidents” and that his government had a determined, “steely resolve” to ensure that offenders felt the “full force” of Australian law.
Mr Andrews stated that he supported the creation of a database on national gangs that would help to identify and curb criminal behaviour by youths. He also said he supported new measures to engage with African communities to prevent youth crime.
These comments by Mr Andrews come after suggestions by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton that he was a soft touch and failed to give police the powers necessary to combat youth crime.
Mr Andrews responded to comments by Peter Dutton that Melbourne residents were too afraid to go out to restaurants at night for fear of being victimised by African youth gangs. He said that he thought Mr Dutton’s words were “designed to get a rise out of people” and suggested that the Home Affairs Minister must not spend much time in Melbourne.
Kelly O’Dwyer, a federal MP who represents the south-east Melbourne electorate of Higgins, said that Mr Andrews should be backing the law-and-order proposals put forward by Victorian Opposition Leader Matthew Guy.
Ms O’Dwyer added that she thought Mr Andrews needed to “stop being a menace to Victoria” and “start being premier”.
Mr Andrews suggested that much of the language being used in the current discussion about African gangs was supporting racist attitudes. He said that he thought it was “dangerous” that people were taking the actions of criminals who happened to be African and used them to make a broad conclusion about African immigrants.
Several South Sudanese Melbourne residents have revealed to the media that they feel they are being treated differently following scrutiny of African youths related to crime. Many have said they fear for their safety in a society they believe sees them as criminals.
Many Australians have thrown their support behind the African communities of Melbourne, using the hashtag #Africangangs alongside images of Africans graduating and doing other positive things within society.