100 crime gangs walk our streets

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    100 crime gangs walk our streets
    By Jeremy Roberts
    November 3, 2004

    ALMOST 100 organised crime gangs are operating in Australia and 10 of those pose a serious threat to society.

    The first audit of organised crime, by the Australian Crime Commission, has uncovered a total of 97 organised crime groups in Australia.

    ACC intelligence chief Kevin Kitson told an international policing conference yesterday the top 10 groups had been deemed "high-threat" and posed a great financial and violent risk to the community.

    "It's clear that the top 10 organised crime groups do achieve a significant financial return on their investments, they do impose threats of violence (and) they do engage in corruption and intimidation," Mr Kitson told the International Policing Conference 2004 in Adelaide.

    The most hazardous groups are believed to include amphetamine drug producers, outlaw bikie gangs, networks of firearms dealers, car "rebirthing" groups and sexual exploitation outfits, plus identity theft and card-skimming groups that specialise in stealing the codes from magnetic strips on credit cards.

    Mr Kitson said the internet and high technology was equipping organised crime groups with the ability to commit fraud at an unprecedented level - some estimates putting the figure in Australia as high as $4 billion a year.

    "At those figures it is rivalling the budgets of the Australian police forces tasked with apprehending the groups," he said.

    And he warned that card-skimming groups would shortly adapt technology from overseas to pluck card information out of the air.

    "They will move away from the relatively exposed forms of stealing the data to taking the data from the transmission line from the point of sale," Mr Kitson said.

    The ACC audit was completed in September and was a first for the national body, which formed last year to collect intelligence on nationally significant criminal activity. It answers to a board made up of representatives from all state and territory police forces, and the five federal police and intelligence agencies.

    Mr Kitson said the audit exposed the ACC to groups it did not know much about.

    "Perhaps the most interesting part is not the 10 high-threat groups but the 87 medium, low and undetermined groups," he said.

    "We know they have an international spread, we know they have links nationally, we know they have some interest in illegal activity, (but) we don't know what that is, and that presents a significant challenge for us."

    While some groups were commonly identified using ethnic tags, such as the "Russian mafia", Mr Kitson said this was misleading.

    He said ethnic terms confused the public and did not reflect how such groups operated. The ACC instead followed the "networks of relationships" between individuals and groups.

    "It's about the networked relationships and, while the links may not be hidden, the money is undeclared," he said.

    Another risk for Australia, given its prized disease-free status and strong export trade, was environmental terrorism.

    "Australia depends very greatly for its economic wealth on exports and it would not take very much to damage that wealth if you had disease deliberately introduced into this country," Mr Kitson said.

    The Australian


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