Sunday, July 21, 2024

Victorian conference takes international aim at gang crime

Some of the world’s foremost experts in gang-related crime investigation are in Melbourne this week as part of the Victoria Police 2023 International Gangs Conference.

The three-day forum brings together key national and international partners across law enforcement and partner agencies.

Victoria Police detectives from the state’s Echo Taskforce and Gang Crime Squad have organised the event, with a range of speakers from across the world including New Zealand Police, London Metropolitan Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), San Francisco Police Department, and Italian state police to take part.

“This is a truly international conference, with speakers from across the globe who have significant experience investigating gangs,” said Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther.

“Gangs come in many forms – starting at the street level and moving up through to incredibly complex international networks.

“It has never been more important that we work in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and partners. None of us are dealing with these issues in isolation, and the presentations over the coming days will hopefully highlighting previous successes and new ways of dealing with existing issues.

“Organised crime and the gang environment are truly transnational, with state and international borders meaning nothing to their brand of criminality,” he said.

Locally, presenters will attend from the Australian Federal Police, Queensland Police, South Australia Police, Corrections Victoria and Griffith University.

“The presenters come from a wide range of backgrounds and include Australian and international leaders in gang investigation, intelligence gathering, response, prevention and legislation,” Victoria Police said in a statement.

Over the three days they will share their unique insights and experiences with all criminal gangs such as outlaw motorcycle gangs, Middle Eastern organised crime groups, street and youth gangs, prison gangs, and other emerging criminal groups.

The overall theme of the conference is to develop a more integrated law enforcement response to better identify, target and combat the current gang landscape.

“Partnerships are key to monitoring and restricting the global threat of organised crime, to challenge the drivers through community engagement, intervention and by creating a hostile environment for gangs,” said Deputy Commissioner Guenther.

“A conference like things gives us an opportunity bring together people who are experts in their field, to collectively share that knowledge and also learn from each other.

“It also helps us build a better collective awareness of current issues and what is being done proactively to address gang-related crime within Victoria, Australia and internationally.”

Topics covered during the conference will include the current Victorian and international gang landscape, Italian organised crime, gang intelligence, legislation, recruitment and exit programs, the use of technology by gangs, and various case studies from a range of law enforcement agencies.

There will also be a key focus on examining legislation from across the world, with discussion around legislative changes and successes to support the modern policing of gangs and organised crime including unexplained wealth, criminal association, technology-enabled crime, wearing of gang colours, custodial penalties and more.

The conference runs from Wednesday, 3 May to Friday, 5 May and has been funded with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police National Anti-Gangs Taskforce.

Victoria’s Echo Taskforce was formed in 2011 to disrupt and investigate criminal offending linked to a range of gangs including outlaw motorcycle gangs, Middle Eastern organised crime groups and street gangs.

The Gang Crime Squad, which forms part of the Echo Taskforce, was created in 2017 to have a specific focus on youth and street gangs.

They work closely with detectives from across Victoria Police Crime Command and the regions to provide subject matter expertise and investigate criminality linked to these gangs.

“In recent years we have experienced significant advances in gang behaviour predominately through the use of technology. This involves gangs right across the spectrum including street gangs, outlaw motorcycle gangs and ethnic-based organised crime groups which operate globally,” said Assistant Commissioner Bob Hill.

“In Victoria, we’ve seen public displays of significant violence involving firearms and edged weapons linked to various gangs. These same groups have also adopted different methodologies using new technology while others have engaged in sophisticated money laundering schemes enhancing their criminal business model.

“For over a decade, the Echo Taskforce and Gang Crime Squad have been Victoria Police’s lead investigative teams in the gang environment, having gained a unique and valuable perspective of its evolution. The Viper Taskforce is the most recent initiative introduced to complement our efforts to impact criminal gangs.

“Whilst our specialist capabilities are essential in combatting gang crime, an all-agency approach remains the key to successfully dismantling these groups. There is no doubt that we are our strongest and most effective when all agencies combine intelligence and capability to create a multi-faceted approach to the threat.

“This conference provides us with the chance to work with subject matter experts from across the globe to identify opportunities for further improvement in the Victoria Police response to this type of criminal offending.”

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