|Founding location||Melbourne,Sydney, Dandenong, Victoria, Australia|
|Ethnicity||South Sudanese, Australian |
|Criminal activities||Burglary, carjacking, assault, home invasions, armed robbery, kidnapping, people smuggling|
Apex, although lacking any leadership or structure, is a group that has been loosely termed a street gang in Melbourne, Australia. The founding members were part of Victoria's South Sudanese community centered around Apex St. in Dandenong North. The 'gang' became associated with a series of high-profile violent carjackings and burglaries in Melbourne's eastern and southeastern suburbs between 2015 and 2016, but the police have called the presence of this so-called gang to be "utter garbage".
The origins of the stories of this alleged gang were from reports in the national media after a brawl in Melbourne's Central Business District between it and the rival Islander 23 gang in March 2016 after the Moomba parade. This prompted a crackdown by Victoria Police. Even if the gang exists, there is little to identify them, since they have little structure, no official colours and are declared a ’non-entity’ by Victorian Police as of April 2017.
The South Sudanese community in Victoria are a refugee community fleeing from the civil war in their homeland, their community of about 20,000 arrived mostly between 2003-2006. The community has faced difficulties in adjusting to Australia, including facing casual racism and the difficulties faced in adjusting to a new community.
The community faces its challenges with an over-representation in the crime statistics. The Sudanese community is about 0.14% of the population and responsible for about 1.4% of the total crime. This situation also seems to be localised around Melbourne and has not infiltrated regional Sudanese communities. The statistics are listing alleged offences, but not those charged with a crime. Part of the over representation is connected to the deliberate targeting and racial profiling of Sudanese Australians under the assumption that they are part of the gang according to members of the South Sudanese community.
Conflict with YCW
Apex gang members have been connected with car-jackings since at least 2015. Two 18-year old suspected gang members were arrested in March 2016 for a series of car-jackings in southeastern Melbourne. A violent carjacking of a Mercedes in April 2016, where the vehicle was later used in a burglary, was blamed on Apex by police.
Threats against police
In March 2016 it was reported that a young member of the gang had threatened to shoot a female police officer at a police station in Dandenong. The officer in question took leave after being traumatised by the threats.
After the Moomba festival fireworks on the night of Saturday 13 March 2016, starting at around 8pm, there was a brawl in and around Federation Square in Melbourne's Central Business District, largely between members of Apex and Islander 23. Around 200 mostly young men participated in the brawl, which had been posted about on social media beforehand.
The police had been notified prior to the riot by a triple 0 emergency call from a Channel 7 reporter, but the warning was dismissed by senior police as "shit". There was widespread fear and panic in the city as onlookers ran for cover, trams stopped running, and Swanston Street was closed down. Four people were arrested on the night, two for drunkenness, one for carrying a taser, and another for knocking a police officer's phone or radio into their face. There was a large amount of media coverage due to the public nature of the brawl.
After the Moomba brawl, a 17-year-old boy linked to Apex was arrested for a series of home invasions and thefts. As of 14 April 2016 more than 33 suspected gang members had been arrested. 34 people were charged over the Moomba brawl, including some with links to Apex.
Claims of racism
There have been varying claims of racism in relation to Apex, the Moomba brawl, and related crimes. An Apex member speaking under the assumed name of "James" claimed to have been present at the Moomba brawl but not involved stated that media reports were exaggerated, that he "wouldn't call Apex a gang", and that he didn't know of organised criminal activity within Apex. He stated it was racist that police were only targeting Apex, and not the other group involved. After Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg stated that Apex members could be deported under legislation previously used to deport outlaw motorcycle club members, there were claims by Anthony Kelly, head of the Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre that this was would be inherently racist, and akin to apartheid.
In April 2016 an associate of the Apex gang was deported to New Zealand after his visa was revoked. In November 2016 two people associated with the gang had their visas revoked, and will be deported to their place of birth. One of the men, a 20-year-old born in New Zealand, was sentenced to 27 months in January 2016. His offences included armed robbery, theft, kidnapping and arson.
A number of far right groups have been reported patrolling the streets of Melbourne to stop the violence, although it has emerged that they have harassed innocent people based on their appearance, and even followed one individual home and to harass them at home. These gangs include the Soldiers of Odin.
In response to the negative press, and especially Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull saying that Victoria was in the grips of gang violence, many members of the Sudanese community took pictures of themselves making a positive contribution to the community with the hashtag #AfricanGangs, while others posted pictures of their children under this hashtag. Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews said that the Turnbull had not contacted him before making those comments, and the police responded by saying that Victoria was one of the safest places in the world to live.
Home Affairs minister, Peter Dutton, claimed that Victorians were afraid to go out at night to dinner, a stance for which he was ridiculed by some Victorians on social media using the hashtag #melbournebitesback, where Melbournians took at picture while out at a restaurant at night. Premier Andrews hit out at the fearmongering that Dutton was initiating, and invited Dutton out for dinner in Melbourne.
The gang was originally claimed to be primarily composed of young Sudanese men and boys, but Victoria Police has since stated that the gang is a “non-entity”, is "no longer and never was predominantly African” and that "a large cohort of that gang was in fact Australian-born offenders”. It was never made up of one or two ethnicities, but from a range of backgrounds, reportedly from Somali and Pacific Islander backgrounds, as well as minority numbers of members from Caucasian, Pakistani, and Afghan descent.
In November 2015 Taskforce Tense was created in response to an increase in young people committing serious and violent crime. The taskforce was later renamed Operation Cosmas and expanded across Victoria.
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