Victoria Police, African leaders talk gang crime

Victoria's new African-Australian community task force met for the first time. Source: AAP

Victoria's African community and police have pushed ahead with a task force to solve youth crime, capping off two weeks of political warring over the issue.

Victoria's African community leaders and police have met for the first time in a series of task force talks to tackle youth gang crime, as a political storm over the issue continues.

Deputy Police Commissioner Andrew Crisp emerged from the meeting with new strategies to combat crime in Melbourne.

"Some of these young people are behaving like street gangs. However it's about what we're doing about the behaviour. How do we stop these kids from offending in the first place," Mr Crisp said.

Cameroonian community member, Sherry-Rose Watts, who was at the meeting, admitted there have been problems amongst youth in her community.

"There's disengagement, there are some issues around drug and alcohol usage. Constantly straddling multiple cultures ... is a struggle for many from migrant and refugee backgrounds," Ms Watts said.

The Victorian government has hit out at what it says are "false claims" by the federal coalition government and state opposition, who've suggested that "libertarian" judges contribute to the gang issue.

"They said there was no consequence for a young person who breaches a condition of their bail," Attorney-General Martin Pakula told reporters.

"We saw just last week that that was completely untrue - there was a young person who was bailed, he breached his bail by having a mobile phone with him against bail conditions, and he was remanded."

Mr Pakula said there were more young offenders on remand than in the 2015-16 financial year.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Friday blamed "civil libertarian" judges.

"If you're appointing civil libertarians to the Magistrates Court over a long period of time then you're going to get softer sentences," Mr Dutton told 3AW radio on Friday.

He refused to answer questions about whether Canberra would provide funding to help, after Victoria said money for migrant services had been repeatedly cut for years. He also refused to comment on whether judges blamed for being soft on crime should be replaced.

"It would be preferable if they did work with state governments to deal with all of the matters that contribute to crime across this community and other communities," Mr Pakula said.

"Any cursory look at the crime statistics will tell you that the youth crime rate in Queensland and the youth crime rate in NSW is higher than the youth crime rate in Victoria and the crime rates for young people in those states are going up, whereas the crime rate for young people in Victoria is going down."

According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, NSW had 20,051 youth offenders in 2015-16, Queensland 12,931 and Victoria 8726.

Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto defended the involvement of his federal colleagues and "with all due respect to Victoria Police" he thought there was a crisis.

"Victoria's basket case of a justice system is attracting national attention, that's not a record Victorians want to keep achieving," he told reporters.

The Law Institute of Victoria said it was "extremely concerned" by ongoing political attacks on Victoria's legal profession.

"The community can have absolute trust in the judiciary and the legal profession in Victoria," it said in a statement.

Source AAP - SBS

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