In keeping with the theme of targeting organised crime syndicates, the Federal Government has invested around $3 million in the Victorian arm of the National Anti-Gang Squad (NAGS), securing its operations for the next two years. The announcement follows $6.2 million for the Western Australian group and $25.4 million for the Australian Federal Police to increase firearms intelligence and forensic capabilities.
The latest announcements have identified the illicit firearms market as a key threat, with the extra funding intended to assist in cracking down on illegal firearms peddled by organised crime groups – a move the SSAA Legislative Action department (SSAA-LA) has welcomed.
The Victorian NAGS already has an impressive case record, with 150 offenders arrested, 350 charged, 125 firearms seized, $650,000 in assets restrained and $7.5 million worth of illicit drugs taken off the streets since its formation in 2013. The squad reportedly helped shut down outlaw motorcycle gang, the Comancheros, in Mildura and caught notorious outlaw bikie Toby Mitchell importing drugs.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan joined Victorian Police Minister Lisa Neville to announce the funding, which is also aimed at increasing its presence in regional Victoria. “We know that organised crime in Australia relies heavily on the illegal drug market as its principle source of profit with more than 60 per cent of Australia’s highest risk criminal targets involved in the ice market and driving its expansion,” he said. “That is why we are fostering unprecedented cooperation between our federal and state law enforcement agencies to tackle this threat.”
Minister Neville said the squad has played a key role in disrupting and dismantling drug and other criminal activities in Victoria. “It’s important our enforcement agencies are working together at a state and federal level so we can crack down on these gangs,” she said.
The SSAA-LA has long pointed to much-needed additional resources for law enforcement to target illegal firearms, specifically those peddled by organised crime syndicates, instead of the usual approach of policing law-abiding firearm owners.