Victoria’s top cop has dismissed suggestions Melbourne gang members who commit violent carjackings and home invasions could be deported.
Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton on Friday poured cold water on a Australian Border Force proposal that the same laws used to deport outlaw bikies could be used against members of Apex and other youth gangs.
“It’s mostly Australian-born people (in the street gangs) so in terms of being able to deport them, that’s not an option,” Mr Ashton told 3AW on Friday.
“Plus the offending we’re dealing with has to carry a sort of penalty that would, under the Migration Act, qualify them to be a candidate (for deportation).
“But at the moment these people and the offences … are not falling in that sort of remit.”
Mr Ashton suggested many of the crimes wouldn’t carry the required 12-month sentence and people under 18 wouldn’t be eligible for deportation anyway.
Taskforce Tense, set up in November to tackle the Apex gang believed to be behind a spate of car thefts and home invasions as well as the Moomba riots, has so far arrested 62 people.
Some 41 of those are under 18. The youngest are 14.
Twenty-six were born in Australia, Mr Ashton said, while 13 were born in Sudan, eight came from New Zealand and three from Egypt.
He said those born overseas were mostly dual citizens.
The Apex gang originally comprised young people from the South Sudanese community in Dandenong but has since expanded.
Victoria Police insist Melbourne’s youth gangs aren’t based on ethnicity but rather their desire to commit criminal acts.
Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg this week flagged the possibility of using the Migration Act’s character test to deport street gang members found guilty of vicious assaults.
Mr Ashton on Friday did acknowledge it was an option but only “if we find people that fall within that (act)”.
Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre chief executive Anthony Kelly welcomed the chief commissioner’s measured comments.
The lawyer said it was outrageous to suggest some gang members should be deported if found guilty of a crime.
“It would mean one person facing court would be threatened with a very different, and very severe, penalty compared to a second person charged with the same offence but who had full Australian citizenship,” Mr Kelly told AAP.
The chief commissioner on Friday said “dozens” of gangs were operating in Melbourne but many didn’t have names.
He advised people to take sensible security precautions given that in many recent home invasions the attackers “are getting in through unlocked doors”.
Mr Ashton said if people were confronted in their home they should simply hand over their car keys.