STINGER grenades, semiautomatic pepper-ball rifles and hi-tech armour. This is how police hope to regain control of Melbourne.
Hi-tech weapons are being handed to Victoria Police officers after a brawl in Collingwood over the weekend led some, including new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, to ask: “What is happening in Melbourne?”
Fairfax reported on Wednesday that riot police had been training for more than six months in the use of brand new weaponry before the decision was made to pull the trigger.
Weapons at the disposal of 100 cops — and soon to be 300 total — include semiautomatic rifles that fire marbles or capsicum rounds, stinger grenades that release rubber pellets when they explode in crowds and guns that fire rubber balls designed to strike at a distance of 50m with the force of a hard punch.
— Brianna Travers (@briannatravers)
A Victoria Police spokesman could not confirm the exact details of the new equipment to news.com.au ahead of a press conference to be held on Wednesday morning.
The news comes less than a week after 200 African-Australian and Pacific Islander youths were involved in a wild brawl inside a live music venue in Collingwood that spilled out on to the street.
The Mater Street fight broke out about 2.45am on Sunday and saw a teenager suffer serious injuries when a car was driven into the crowd.
The 18-year-old had his leg pinned against a parked car. Witnesses told the Herald Sun the driver was “going at a blistering pace and he was f***ing aiming for people”.
Five others suffered injuries that were deemed non-life threatening.
Victoria Police Commander Tim Hansen said the incident began inside the Gasometer Hotel but quickly got out of control.
“Police were called and attended shortly after … we deployed resources in search of both offenders and witnesses,” he said.
“It’s an affray (and) from where I’m standing, horrific behaviour … It was certainly a chaotic scene when police arrived last night and there were people we certainly endeavoured to apprehend.
“We’re working through and trying to understand the cause of the incident.”
Pictures from the scene the morning after showed debris strewn across the road and a number of vehicles with significant damage.
Blood was smeared all over the front and side of a silver car parked outside the venue.
In August, 100 youths rioted on the streets of Taylors Hill, throwing rocks at police after an organised fight over a girl.
The PM added his voice to the conversation about a growing crime problem in Melbourne. He told radio station 3AW that it was time to return “force” to policing.
“We have the highest proportion of Sudanese population in NSW, we don’t have these problems, they are not happening in other cities,” Mr Morrison said. “Why are they happening in Melbourne?”
“This is a law and order problem. When you don’t have that control or rule of law imposed, people will take advantage of it … they have to be restrained by a police ‘force’.”
He said Victoria Police should follow the lead of NSW Police under the leadership of former police chief Andrew Scipione.
“He changed the police service to the police force,” Mr Morrison said, “Law and order means something in NSW … in my home city, we have a police force that is a force.”
Victorian Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton told The Age on Wednesday that Victorians who misbehave will be targeted by “confronting” tactics and that “public disorder will not be tolerated”.
‘‘People should be aware that we have got this (equipment) and we will use it,’’ Mr Ashton said.
Victoria Police will hold a press conference at 11am on Wednesday to provide details of the new weapons made available to a select group of riot police.