Street Gang Violence in Melbourne

There’s blood on the streets, no not in Cairo, right here in Australia. I want to talk about the worsening situation of street violence in our major cities and in particular the growing problem of “street gangs” in our suburbs.

Four teenagers were hospitalised during the week with knife and machete wounds after three separate incidents between two rival youth gangs in the suburb of Braybrook in Melbourne’s inner west.

In the first incident which occurred at about 9pm on Wednesday night in Burke St an 18 year old was approached by a gang of up to 20, one of them armed with a machete. The armed man chased the youth before allegedly slashing him with the machete, cutting his head, back, stomach, elbow and hands. The victim was taken by a friend to Sunshine Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

The attacker was described as being of Islander appearance and the other gang members were described as a mix of Islander and Asian.

The second incident, also in Burke St occurred about 11pm when a fight broke out between two groups. During this incident an 18-year-old Ardeer man was stabbed three times in the back, and a 17-year-old Sunshine West boy suffered slash wounds to his hands. Both were taken to Sunshine Hospital.

The attackers were described as Asian.

The third incident occurred again in Burke St where a 17 year old boy was approached from behind and stabbed. He suffered stab wounds to his right wrist and upper back and his attacker was described as Asian with brown hair and wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. It is believed he was with a group of men also described as Asian.

Anyone with information about these incidents should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

A Victoria Police spokesman said that it is believed that these incidents were not racially motivated but were rather based around territory or “turf” so to speak. The groups appear to be young men of mixed race (apparently Islander and Asian) who form a group, give themselves a name and then align themselves with a particular location. The spokesman stopped short of calling these groups gangs. What has happened is another group from a different location has entered their “patch” which has resulted in a string of incidents that resulted in four young people being hospitalised with serious injuries.

The spokesman did stress that the Police view these incidents as serious.

Now this is nothing new, hell even in my day there were the (insert suburb name) boys and the (insert other suburb name) boys who would occasionally bump into each other resulting in a territorially based altercation but back then it was just a bit of push and shove or at worst a bit of a punch on that ended as soon as the other guy hit the ground. The first thing that concerns me here is the seriousness and extent of the violence being used by these groups.

Now I know that some of you are going to blame American TV or “Gangster Rap” for the behaviour of these young people but research shows that violent lyrics or programs don’t actually cause violence but rather young people with a propensity toward violence naturally gravitate toward this kind of music or programming. So according to the experts it’s the other way around.

That said, where do these young people learn that this kind of behaviour is acceptable? I mean what possesses a young person to think that carrying a knife is a good idea to start with leave alone using it on someone? And how do we deal with this?

And deal with it we must because in the scheme of things the incidents described above were relatively minor. There is an increasing incidence of young people being stabbed to death in such altercations and at the moment Victoria Police are investigating whether an incident where a Molotov cocktail was thrown through the front window of a Sunshine home resulting in a 12 year old boy who was sleeping in that room being taken to hospital with serious burns was related to the incidents in Braybrook on Wednesday night.

The point is I think that when it has reached the point where armed youths are running around our streets at night stabbing each other and anyone else who might get in the way causing serious injury and even death then the situation has gotten way out of hand.

I personally think the response should be two fold. Firstly we need more Police on the streets and those Police need to have adequate powers to deal with these situations. I have taken some flak for this but I am in support of our Police having stop and search powers. It might be pushing the civil rights boundaries but I would personally suffer the intrusion rather than have the Police not find the knife that might end up between my shoulder blades because the snivel libertarians said that Police can’t stop and search people like that.

The second fold needs to be earlier intervention in the lives of these young people and their families. The kind of intervention that teaches these young people that this kind of behaviour is socially unacceptable from a very young age and identifies young people who are at risk of engaging in this kind of activity very early in their lives there by providing the opportunity for education and cultural change before the young person destroys their life by knifing another kid to death in a street brawl.

That’s my two bobs worth, what do you think?

…J man.

Update posted 06/02/2011 @ 3:35 pm

I have to share this with you all.

I had a conversation with our 11 year old about this subject who in part disagrees with the researchers on the matter of violent lyrics and programming having an effect on this type of activity.

While she agreed that watching violent programs or movies doesn’t make someone violent or mean that they are a violent person she did feel from her perspective as a kid growing up with all of these visual influences that kids today learn from such programs that things like carrying weapons and using them in such situations is acceptable, that in fact this is a social norm. Some may even perceive this type of activity and people involved in it to be “cool”.

She also felt that kids don’t think about the possible consequences of using such a weapon until something terrible has already happened, mostly because no one is putting this message across to them. Not teachers, parents or the programs that they are watching.

When asked if banning such programs might have an effect on the situation she replied “No! Because we have the internet now and if these programs get banned from TV and the cinemas people will just download them or watch them on Youtube.”

It was her opinion that a possible solution could be to begin educating children from as young as pre-school that these types of behaviour are socially unacceptable and what the possible consequences of such behaviour could be.

Out of the mouths of babes!