‘Gangster culture’ takes up guns

Weapons offences doubled in Brimbank over the past four years, police data has revealed.

This follows reports in The Age that police are discovering guns in cars every two days in Melbourne’s north-west, dubbed the “red zone” by officers concerned about a growing gangster culture in the region.

The alarming data, obtained from the Police Association, tracks anecdotal and statistical evidence of a burgeoning gun culture among young men in the north-west.

Crime Statistics Agency data reveals Brimbank alone had a jump from 306 weapons and explosives offences in the year to March 31, 2011, to 619 offences in the 12 months to March 31 this year.

There was an almost threefold jump in firearm offences in the north-west overall over the same period – from 581 to 1332.

North West Metro acting commander Mick Hermans described the north-west’s figures as “alarming”.

“We’ve been aware of a steady increase in recent years,” he said. “The detection rate is concerning, and the incidents are concerning.”

He said weapons seized included long-arm shotguns, a “smattering of hand guns” and home-made weapons, some imported.

Many of these weapons were taken from younger residents.

“More often than not, they are young adults in their 20s,” he said.

Police Association secretary Ron Iddles told Melbourne radio earlier this month that drug use among the north-west’s criminal community often led to guns: “I think first of all comes the drugs, then the guns”.

Star Weekly reported earlier this month that drug dealing and trafficking increased slightly over the past year, from 286 to 308 offences, while cultivating and manufacturing drugs, and drug use and possession, declined slightly.