Police crack down on violent ‘swarming’ thefts after youth crime spree
Police have arrested dozens of teenagers as part of a crackdown on ‘swarming’ thefts at shopping centres across Melbourne.
A specialist police squad, the Offender Management Team, was set up earlier this month to target the crime, which involves groups of young offenders overwhelming staff and storming stores to grab items.
The squad was set up in the wake of violent run-throughs at nine JB Hi-Fi stores in just 10 days.
The team has already arrested 37 offenders in relation to swarming thefts, and warrants have been issued for 54 others.
Commander David Clayton, from Victoria Police’s North West Metro Region, said part of the specialist team’s aim is to steer young offenders away from a life of crime.
“We use offender management teams to make sure that people who are before the courts and on bail, or have other retrains, comply with them,” he told 3AW’s Kate and Quarters.
“So we do bail checks on youth and we use our youth support officers to work with other agencies and families to try and put some of these youths on a better pathway.”
Police are also working with retailers to make it more difficult for offenders to carry out run-throughs.
“We work with the retail sector and crime prevention methods to make it harder for people to steal and less desirable for people to steal,” Mr Clayton said.
“It’s about, perhaps, making your product more secure.”
Commander Clayton warned retail staff not to intervene in the thefts.
“I’d discourage any employee of a retail store to physically intervene,” he said.
“Unfortunately if you’ve got an armed youth or half a dozen youths you’re probably going to come off second best.”
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