Sunday, 7 December 2008

Escalating shoot-outs between The Family,ethnic gangsters in the northern suburbs

Escalating shoot-outs between ethnic gangsters in the northern suburbs Most of the seven suburban slayings, which occurred between February and last month, have been discovered in or near metropolitan parks and reserves. Two were parkland "slash and burns" - suspected of being related to drug deals. A third victim is believed to have had his throat cut in a Noble Park reserve before being rolled into a nearby creek. Three others were shot dead and the seventh was bashed to death and dumped in a field. All except two of the victims were aged under 35, all the killings had drug or criminal links and no one has been charged over three of the cases. It is a comparative kill rate to the height of the Carlton crew-Williams crew gangland war where in 2003 when eight underworld-linked figures were executed.
In other years of that war, four or less people were killed. THE seven suburban slayings have been probed in separate homicide inquiries, but are not believed to have a devoted taskforce even though drugs are suspected to be a common factor.
As the bodies have stacked up, police have been spooked by an escalation in non-fatal shootings by ethnic gangsters in Melbourne's north. A Lebanese organised crime syndicate and its rivals are believed to be behind about 20 non-fatal shootings around Broadmeadows, Gladstone Park, Preston, Reservoir and Coburg since November last year. The main gang, dubbed The Family, allegedly centres on a patriarch and three sons running a speed, ice and ecstasy racket backed by threats against police and residents and violent attacks, sometimes allegedly with chainsaws and machineguns. They cannot be named because of court hearings. Victoria Police has responded with the new 20-officer Taskforce Santiago, taking over from Operation Lased, which was probing the northern gangs. Det Acting Insp Steve White said the taskforce would deploy roadblocks in the north and bring in the heavily armed Special Operations Group for risky arrests. "Even when (Operation Lased) had made some arrests at the end of September, shootings still occurred," he said.
"That's why we've been established - bottom line to stop the shooting. "I'm concerned about the amount of guns that are in the community and where they're sourcing them from," Det White, Santiago's operational head, said. "It seems to me as soon as we take a gun off the street it's replaced. "Long arms, short arms, all different types. "Nothing surprises me in policing, but the fact that they can get access to guns so readily is a concern." The squad devoted to combating the drug and gun menace has drawn officers from homicide, armed crime and crime-tasked operations. But police believe further shootings may be imminent "because you can't control everything that's going on in the suburbs". "We haven't had a shooting in the past five weeks (since the taskforce began). In that respect we've done our job," Det White said. "We've had some good results, but it's the tip of the iceberg." Det White said the code of silence, which was cultural and born of fear, meant criminals would not identify their tormentors. "But Purana has shown it can work. Criminals will make statements and give evidence against each other for a variety of reasons," he said. "We will be more than happy to go and chat to anyone who wants to come forward." "We're still putting the jigsaw together as to who's who . . . but certainly it's significant enough for us to start a taskforce to look at it." The existence of Operation Santiago was revealed in the days after the shooting of Bandidos bikie Ross Brand, but it is focused mostly on the northern gangs' shooting sprees. POLICE believe the northern crime gangs may have resulted from jockeying for dominance in the wake of Purana's successes. Senior crime investigators said the current major crime players were loosely based on ethnic grounds, including Italian and Lebanese. But the gangland groups were increasingly making multi-racial alliances, forming a "criminal melting pot" when special skills or expertise were needed. High-ranking sources also said the ceasefire in the gangland war was not permanent and it was likely there would be at least another hit.They said detected drug flows - including big ecstasy busts worth hundreds of millions of dollars and alleged linked to the Calabrian mafia - were "just the tip of the iceberg".


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