Gang denial: ‘Enough is enough’
A PROFESSIONAL athlete who works closely with young Africans both in and out of prison says Australia needs to face up to its problem with Sudanese gangs.
Nelly Yoa, a South Sudanese footballer, was also injured in a high-profile machete attack in Melbourne in 2011.
His commentary comes after a string of headline-grabbing violent incidents in Melbourne last month. Among them were an attempted ambush on officers, a shopping centre cop bashing, an out-of-control house party riot which forced heavily-armed police to retreat and a mass brawl at St Kilda beach.
In an editorial for Fairfax Media, Yoa wrote he is "furious and in total disbelief" because police and government officials "say there are no Sudanese gangs in Melbourne".
"Nobody should ever try and cover up or defend this unacceptable behaviour - to do so is immoral and inexplicable," he wrote. "It is upsetting and completely false.
"It is a fact that South Sudanese are over-represented in crime statistics and are causing great harm and fear across communities in Melbourne.
"I firmly believe young Sudanese people need to adapt and contribute to the Australian way of life immediately."
Yoa, who migrated to Melbourne from war-torn South Sudan in 2003, has seen gang-related violence first-hand. His life was changed forever when chaos broke out at a 2011 Sudanese beauty pageant after-party in Melbourne's west.
The promising sportsman was hacked up by a Sudanese man with a machete after jumping in front of the blade to save a friend's life.
The injuries cost him his professional contract with Melbourne Victory and left him in wheelchair.
"Melburnians are sick and tired of excuses. We've got to make sure people are held accountable," he wrote.
"Some of these kids have gone too far now. They're a disgrace to themselves, to their families and to their community.
"This behaviour has been ongoing for nearly two years. Enough is enough.
"It makes me ashamed and embarrassed to call myself a Sudanese."
Shocking images emerged last week of Ecoville Community Park in Tarneit, in Melbourne's west, which has been turned into a no-go zone by a youth group calling themselves Menace To Society - the same Apex-linked group which was thought to be behind the carnage at a Werribee Airbnb property last month.
Residents say the offenders hijacked Tarneit's community centre and park, going on nightly vandalism sprees, trashing homes, and terrorising families.
Victoria Police say it is too early to confirm whether the incidents or offenders across the state of violent incidents in December are linked.
However, its acting chief commissioner Shane Patton distanced himself from a local superintendent who downplayed the issue.
"The leaders in the African community readily and openly say they do have issues with a small cohort of African youth who are committing high-end crimes," Mr Patton told The Australian.
"We acknowledge that, we don't shy away from that at all. We will target anyone who's involved in any criminal activity and if that's African youths, so be it."
This morning, Malcolm Turnbull spoke out about the violence in Victoria - blaming it solely on the state's Labor government.
It comes as the Prime Minister faces calls to fund 80 new AFP officers to tackle youth gangs terrorising Melbourne suburbs, according to Sky News.
"I am very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria and particularly in Melbourne," he said at a press conference this morning.
"It is a failure of Andrew's Labor government. It is very important to understand that community policing is the role of the state government - that's their responsibility.
"The Australian Federal Police is a small and specialised police force that obviously deals with matters of particular federal responsibility, including terrorism.
"We also provide considerable intelligence and technological support to police force in respect of gangs."
He said Victoria Police is a much bigger organisation, but it is lacking the "political leadership" to tackle the gang problem.
However, Mr Patton said the problem wasn't solely a policing issue.
"We continue to work with the African community to try and address the root causes, which isn't just a policing issue," he told the Herald Sun.
"It's about disengagement, it's about employment, it's about a whole range of things."
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