Police surprised by scale of Melbourne CBD gang brawl

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Victoria Police has said it was taken by surprise by Saturday night’s street fight in the CBD, in which up to 200 rioters ran amok.

Victoria Police’s Deputy Commissioner Andrew Crisp has told radio station 3AW officers were overwhelmed by the intensity of a gang riot in the city centre on Saturday.

More than 100 youths reportedly stormed Federation Square opposite Flinders Street station at around 8pm, hurling chairs from nearby restaurants and terrorising members of the public.

Deputy Police Commissioner Andrew Crisp said it was unacceptable.

"I'll even call it a riot – in my perspective it was riotous behaviour," he said.

One passerby was taken to hospital with serious head injuries.

Witnesses said the members of the Apex and Islander 23 gangs clashed in the street, causing police to seal off access to Swanston Street.

Deputy Commissioner Crisp would not confirm whether gangs were involved, saying on Sunday he had heard reports of a large group running through the crowd gathered to attend the Moomba festival.

The response from authorities has been criticised, with Channel 7 having tipped off police about the possible violence.

“We did look at reallocating resources and we briefed our members in the event that something might have occurred,” he said.

“In all honesty it did surprise us.”

Violence also erupted in Sydney, with a brawl taking place outside a concert venue in the CBD on Sunday morning.

Two men were arrested following the incident and have since been charged.

Melbourne’s gangs

The Apex gang has a history of criminal association, with followers suspected of stealing cars and even burgling homes.

It has at least 100 members, some as young as 12-years-old.

Police had recently arrested 33 of its members, though it’s unclear if this is related to the weekend’s violence.

The state’s police chief Graeme Ashton has promised to devote more resources to Operation Tense, set up to monitor gangs in Victoria’s southeast.

Mr Crisp said there are deeper issues around gang membership that need to be explored.

“Some of the theories are around young men that are disengaged, that feel they have a sense of purpose a sense of belonging when they do belong to a gang,” he said.

“It’s not just about what we do in terms of enforcement, it’s about how do you break the cycle, how do you get these mainly young men engaged in employment and other activities to take them away from crime?”

Safe city

Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has reassured members of the public that despite Saturday’s events, people should not be deterred from visiting the CBD.

“There is no way we’re going to put up with this sort of aggressive and violent behaviour in our city,” he said.

Police are continuing to comb through hours of CCTV footage and are confident more arrests will be made in addition to the four made on the night.

Mr Crisp has urged those involved to give themselves up.

“Go to your local police station, because we’ll come knocking on your door,” he said.

Despite threats of further violence on Sunday night, police said no incidents were reported.

- With AAP.

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