Friday, 20 December 2013

How to win war with bikie gangs

How to win war with bikie gangs


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GARY Johns's own lack of intelligence regarding the threat posed by criminal motorcycle gangs (The Australian, December 17) borders on the astonishing. Their propensity for violence, intimidation and illegality are well-documented around the world.
The Crime and Misconduct Commission, Queensland's top crime-fighting body, has described criminal motorcycle gangs as "high-threat criminal networks" that have increased their involvement in organised crime.
It also says: "Changes in their internal culture have resulted in them exhibiting an increased propensity to engage in, firstly, illegal drug activity in Queensland and interstate and in the use of violence, particularly firearms related violence."
The Australian Crime Commission says these gangs are heavily involved in illicit drug markets, vehicle rebirthing, firearms trafficking, serious frauds, money laundering, extortion, prostitution, property crime and bribing and corrupting officials.
The ACC also says: "They often form alliances with street gangs, possibly in part as a recruitment tool to undertake the higher-risk aspects of their criminal activities, while remaining insulated from prosecution."
Then there is the very human proof, the casualties of the gangs' actions, people such as Kathy Devitt. She was shot in the leg, in the middle of the day, while shopping on the Gold Coast. She was allegedly collateral damage, caught in the cross-fire of escalating conflict between rival bikie gangs. Try telling her gangs are not a problem.
When the Newman government came to office, after effectively 20 years of Johns's Labor Party, we inherited a state in which criminal motorcycle gangs were thriving. Legislation implemented by the former government simply failed. More than four years since its Criminal Organisations Act 2009 was passed, not a single group has been captured by it.
We implemented a range of new measures to tackle the bikies almost immediately, including increased penalties for firearms offences and the toughest unexplained wealth laws in the country. Despite this, the gangs continued to think they lived outside of the law and what was acceptable in society.
They passed the point of no return when scores of Bandidos rioted in front of diners on the Gold Coast, then surrounded a watch house when their fellow bikies were arrested.
The Newman government has taken the strong, necessary action that Queenslanders demanded and deserve. We have brought in, with Labor Party support, a range of reforms that are hitting criminal gangs head on and from within. We deliberately and unapologetically made the legislation and penalties severe to send a message to the bikie gangs that their time in Queensland was over.
In just 2 1/2 months, more than 430 criminal motorcycle gang members and associates have been arrested in Queensland on more than 900 charges, including extortion, drugs, affray (rioting) and firearms offences. There are also reports that members are handing in their colours and abandoning their club houses.
Initial crime statistics also suggest a possible ripple effect. Assaults, robberies and break and enters are down by as much as 60 per cent in parts of the state.
Gang-related intelligence is also growing. In the past, a twisted code of silence among members and even rival groups made it difficult to prosecute them. Many bikie gang crimes also went unreported because of intimidation and threats of retribution against complainants.
The Crime and Misconduct Commission and the police now have more resources and powers, including the ability to perform intelligence-gathering hearings, and they're using them.
The weight of fear is also lifting from the community with Crime Stoppers receiving about 600 gang-related reports since the beginning of October, a 700 per cent increase.
Even our political rivals have acknowledged our efforts. South Australia's Labor attorney-general turned Speaker Michael Atkinson has been quoted as saying Queensland has found the "magic formula" in the fight against criminal motorcycle gangs. Former prime minister Julia Gillard even called for a response to organised crime earlier this year.
Many gang members, unsurprisingly, are doing whatever they can to get around our new laws. They are reportedly launching a legal challenge and their PR machine is in top gear, doling out misinformation and fear to legitimate, law-abiding motorcycle riders and groups.
Make no mistake, there is a reason these groups are called criminal motorcycle gangs. They even proudly call themselves outlaws. Violence, fear and illegality are their currency and purpose.
Criminal motorcycle gangs are not the only illegal groups that will be captured by the new laws. Other organised crime gangs and pedophile rings also will be targeted.
The laws' framework consists of a range of safeguards, including the requirement of a jury to determine if an offender is a vicious lawless associate, which ensures law-abiding people have nothing to fear.
We made a commitment to the people of Queensland during the election that we would make our state the safest place to raise a family.
We are keeping that promise by giving the authorities and the judiciary the power to rid what is a real and serious criminal scourge from our state.
Jarrod Bleijie is the Queensland Attorney-General and Minister for Justice.

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