CRIME gangs with a disciplined culture and ability to plan and set targets has given a new potency to crime in Frankston and on the Mornington Peninsula.
The tech savvy gangs use social media, including Facebook, and encryption apps to co-ordinate activities, allowing their members to mobilise and disperse quickly, recruit members and plan their next hit.
Easy access to stolen cars and quicker freeway travel times mean that our once sleepy hamlets are now high on the agenda of the often race-related gangs who regard “slap on the wrist” penalties as green cards to commit more crimes.
Mornington Detective Sergeant Nick Vallas said recent raids on the peninsula could be linked to a crime gang from Dandenong.
“We can’t say they are definitely gang members, but they probably are,” he said. “They adopt a common theme before committing crimes, which they call missioning. This may be to break into a car and steal it, or, if the car’s locked, to break into the house and steal the car’s keys and then steal it. The stolen cars are then used to rob other cars.
“It’s this willingness to go to any lengths to achieve their aim that worries us.”
Car owners are making it easy for thieves. On Saturday night, 22 August, eight cars were broken into in Bentons and Dunns roads, Mt Martha, with thieves stealing a Subaru – later recovered in Frankston North – and loose change.
Detective Sergeant Jason Hocking, of Mornington CIU, said all the cars are believed to have been unlocked.
“We go on about it, but people are still making it easy for thieves.” He said the incidents are not believed to be gang related.
In Mt Martha the same night, up to four men burgled a house on The Esplanade, at 3am Sunday 23 August, frightening a couple who woke to find them rifling through bedside cupboards and draws.
The men, described as African or islander in appearance, were using mobile-phones as torches, going from room to room searching for valuables. They left with jewellery valued at $20,000 when the couple raised the alarm.
A Hampton Park man, 24, believed to be the get-away driver, was arrested by Mornington police and, although not being charged with any offence on the night, may be charged at a later date.
Frankston Embona Detective Sergeant Marty O’Brien said gangs with names such as Apex, Y2K and YKK were making life “very busy” for detectives. He said racially linked members coming to Frankston from Dandenong and Narre Warren – some aged as young as 13 – were a “huge problem”.
“Crimes by these groups have risen 10-fold over the past few years,” he said. “And 90 per cent of it relates to the Polynesians.
“They get straight off the plane and are straight into it. We know who they are but we can’t do much about them.”
Police are frustrated by lights sentences handed down by the courts.
“One guy charged with 14 counts of armed robbery was granted bail,” Detective Sergeant O’Brien said. “Why a court would even entertain the idea of bail I don’t know.”
A Melbourne police taskforce formed to tackle the threat from gangs has charged more than 70 young men over a six-month crime spree, including crimes in Frankston and on the peninsula.
The youths, aged 14-24, were charged with more than 400 serious offences ranging from armed robbery to commercial burglary, car theft, driving offences and illegal gun possession.
The six-month police investigation, established to target mid-level organised crime, revealed that two syndicates based in Melbourne’s northern suburbs had targeted department stores and tobacconists all the way down to Frankston.
Three violent thieves, who police later identified as gang members, raided two 24-hour service stations, at Dromana and Rosebud, on 29 July. The trio, with one member aged 15, stormed counters and terrorised staff with an axe and a handgun in the early morning raids.
CCTV footage shows them smashing glass counters, destroying computer equipment, rifling cupboards and pointing a handgun in the face of the lone attendant – before repeating the viciousness 15 minutes later at the next service station. Money and cigarettes were stolen at both premises.
Six of the gang were apprehended within the week and the youngest is now out on bail.
Their arrests form part of a bigger picture, with up to 25 offenders nabbed over a spate of aggravated burglaries, vandalism, thefts from and of cars, deceptions, petrol drive offs and armed robberies across the southern suburbs in the past few weeks.
“They knew each other and were acting together; there was definitely a level of planning and organisation,” Frankston Embona Detective Sergeant Alistair Hanson said.
The same gang is believed responsible for smashing up to 25 car windscreens and rear and side windows in Cheltenham. Two vandals in two cars used golf clubs and a hammer to smash the windows of cars parked in streets off Centre Dandenong Rd, causing $25,000 damage. Other cars were damaged in Armadale and Caulfield.