Sydney street gangs in wild West war
ESCALATING gang violence, including a daylight brawl in which knives were pulled in Parramatta's busy CBD, has prompted NSW Police to set up a special strike force to address the youth crime epidemic in Sydney's west.
The youth gangs, some of which have been linked to last week's Kariong juvenile justice riots, are modelling themselves on violent US rap culture, writing songs and posting videos of violent confrontations between themselves online.
With more than 20 detectives and analysis experts, Strike Force Imbala was set up three weeks ago when senior police became concerned about the growing conflict between a number of gangs in the city's southwest and northwest.
"This is designed to stop the problem before it becomes a serious problem," one officer said.
"They are very much into the rap culture talking about (Los Angeles rival gangs) The Crips and Bloods and other violent groups.
"This is about being on the front foot and also letting these young members know if you want to be part of a gang you are going to be targeted for police attention."
On June 16 at 1pm in the heart of the Parramatta shopping district nine members of rival gangs began brawling at the corner of Argyle and Church streets. Two of the brawlers were armed with knives.
Police said it was the result of longstanding gang rivalry between two groups, primarily of Polynesian background. All nine brawlers, aged between 16 and 26, are now before the courts.
Police also claim kids as young as 13 are joining gangs and are often still active in their early 20s.
In the skirmishes online, many of the posts between rival gangs are about territory with many gangs incorporating postcodes into gang names - such as the 2560 which boasts members from Claymore and Campbelltown.
It is understood the physical battles have encompassed groups from Mt Druitt in the northwest and Campbelltown from the southwest with the feud even spreading to inside the Kariong Detention centre last week in one of the juvenile justice system's most violent episodes in years.
Officials believe the riot, which involved a 23-hour siege in which one juvenile inmate was stabbed was a result of the turf war between the Greater West gang and the Inner Western Brotherhood being carried from the street into the Frank Baxter Juvenile detention centre.
Strike force Imbala will be looking at gangs such as OneFour - formerly known as NF14 from Mount Druitt or District 27 - in a nod to the 2770 postcode.
Groups of youths from these area have been involved in a rolling rivalry for the past five years mainly with a group, the Inner West Brotherhood, which includes suburbs such as Cabramatta.
Young people associated with the gangs are prolific users of social media, regularly posting footage of fights to YouTube to taunt each other.
One video uploaded two weeks ago shows two men punching each other at Sydenham train station as others goad them on.
Another video connected to 21 District appears to show a brawl involving multiple youths at Fairfield with a caption boasting "straight hands - no knifes like OneFour the dogs".
Former NSW detective and senior lecturer at Western Sydney University Dr Mike Kennedy said youth gangs have been a problem for years.
"There is the danger that if you don't get to some of those involved early they are recruited by proper criminal gangs like the bikies," he said.
"I know that the Rebels would recruit young islanders in years gone past in the Claymore area."
RAPPERS CASH IN ON CULTURE OF VIOLENCE
A Sydney rap group which shares its name with the Mount Druitt youth gang OneFour has gained notoriety online after bursting onto the scene with provocative hit single Shanks and Shivs.
While not gang members themselves, the group says it has experienced life first-hand on the streets of the city's west, where youth violence is rife.
The video to their underground track, which has already been viewed more than one million times since being uploaded to YouTube in March, shows multiple young men rapping about street warfare.
While everyone else is talking about smoking pot, going to raves and that, you hear us talking about things that we've done out on the streets," rapper Lekks14 told website Filter.
However, the rappers made up fictional characters for the video and a disclaimer at the start of the provocative song says "the events that occur are purely symbolic - both artist and makers do not condone violence".
While they share the same name as the Mount Druitt gang, the OneFour rappers say their moniker is a reference to the year they first started - 2014.