Monday, March 30, 2009

Only The Spin Is Under Control

The police minister Tony Kelly has been asked if the New South Wales Police have the bikie violence situation under control. His reply was “Yes, they certainly do.” No doubt it is his attempt to promote community confidence in the efforts of the police to tackle the escalating gangland war, which has spilled over from the front pages into the lives of ordinary everyday bystanders. The threat to public safety has added to the necessity for the minister to make reassuring statements to the media, but the truth is that the situation is far from under control.

The very fact that a man has been ambushed as he arrived at the apartment block in which he lives makes it self evident that matters are out of control. Peter Zervas was shot as he got out of his car to open the security gate at his home, barely a week after his brother Anthony was bashed to death at the infamous Sydney Airport brawl. He was shot three times and left for dead as the gunman ran away. Peter Zervas now lies in hospital in a serious condition. And yet the police minister wants to assure us that police have matters under control.

The fact that the targets and the victims of this violence are all bikies might give some people comfort, perhaps leading them to think that it’s somehow alright that bikies are killing each other, so long as nobody else gets hurt. But the longer this goes on, and the more out of hand it becomes, the greater is the risk that innocent bystanders will get hurt. In fact, it’s only a matter of time.

The challenge for police is not to be underestimated. It’s easy enough for all of us to demand that something should be done, but for police to actually put a stop to all of this is far from simple. A whole range of factors must be considered, including laws to increase police powers, along with boosting police numbers and resources. But in the end, success depends upon effectively addressing the criminal culture which exists not only among bikies, but more broadly in the form of gangs generally.

While it might be important for the police minister to be seen to be urging calm in the community and saying things to reassure the public, nobody is going to believe him that the police have matters under control as long as the bullets are still flying. If making vague but reassuring statements is the best that the government can do then the effect is not very reassuring at all. In fact, it would seem to indicate that the minister, and the government, really don’t have anything under control at all, except perhaps for the spin.

No comments: