Australia will set up an anti-gang task force based on a US FBI model to combat “the gangs and guns on our streets”, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said yesterday.
Gillard said the A$64 million (US$65.3 million) task force would be made up of 70 police from national and state forces. and include officers from the Australian Crime Commission, Customs and the tax department.
“These are new measures to try and make sure we are combating the gangs and guns on our streets,” Gillard told reporters in Sydney.
The prime minister announced the plan ahead of her five-day stay in western Sydney, scene of a recent spate of shootings.
Gillard denied the task force was a ploy to win back voters in Sydney’s western suburbs, formerly a stronghold of her Australian Labor Party, but now under threat of swinging to the opposition in Sept. 14 elections.
“This is about a national plan and bringing new national resources to make a difference,” she said.
The prime minister said gun crime had dropped in recent years, but there had been an increase in shootings in public places, with these rising from 73 in 2010 to about 130 last year in the most populous state of New South Wales.
The new task force will directly investigate gang members, and provide state and federal law enforcement agencies with intelligence on gangs across Australian states and overseas, she said.
It will also work with international law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, the US Drug Enforcement Agency and Interpol.
Gillard said the task force was based on the FBI’s “violent gang, safe street” model, which she said had resulted in more than 55,000 arrests in the US since 2001.
Australian Home Affairs Minister Jason Clare also announced that a new national border targeting center would be established to crack down on “high-risk international passengers and cargo.”
“Money creates power in the criminal underworld and the more we do to help police seize the cash, seize the houses, seize the cars of these criminals, the more we can shift the balance of power on the street,” he said.