“[The 15-year-old] was arrested nine times in the year before he allegedly murdered another teen at St Albans in December,” one officer said.
“He was remanded on four of those occasions and bailed by the court.”
The teen, who cannot be named due to his age, and 20 other warring current and former alleged Blood Drill Kill members, allegedly armed themselves with sticks and fence posts before meeting at the Keilor Plains train station at St Albans, under the guise of handing back a car, three days before Christmas last year.
There, 17-year-old Aguer Akech was stabbed and died at the scene after trying to flee on foot across train lines.
Last week, his alleged attacker was charged with murder following a five-month homicide investigation.
But police sources say between the deadly fight and being identified as the alleged killer, the 15-year-old was arrested a further six times for other crimes across the western suburbs including robbery, burglary, assault, theft and bail offences.
Police sources said youth gangs in the west were actively recruiting young members to commit violent crimes including car thefts, carjackings, brawls, swarming thefts and home invasions.
According to those working in the community, Apex and Menace To Society are largely inactive due to gang members reaching 18 years of age, so the Sunshine and St Albans-affiliated BDK are now dominating the streets with more than 100 juvenile members.
Other prevalent groups include BDK’s younger offshoots in Tarneit, the SSO (Squad Shit Only) and BBG (Black Belly Gang), and the Werribee-based Brotherhood.
“Many are the younger brothers of former MTS members rising up in the ranks,” they said.
Late last month, more than a dozen youths from across the west were arrested following an organised brawl involving more than 30 people in a car park on Derrimut Road in Hoppers Crossing. The May 23 melee, allegedly caused by rising tensions between the Brotherhood and BBG, led to a 17-year-old being hospitalised with serious stab wounds.
A 13-year-old boy was among those arrested over the affray.
Police sources and youth advocates fear the state’s education system is letting down many immigrant children who find themselves assigned a class due to their age and not their levels of education.
Many, they say, are left feeling isolated and ashamed, and are instead lured to gang culture through the Hollywood version of “thug life”.
“Disengaged young males are finding it easier to go down that path, copying this Hollywood idea of gang life, thinking they’ll go on to produce rap music,” one officer said.
“We’ve got young males, 12 and 13, being put into Year 7 after arriving in Australia with no real education. They feel stupid and don’t feel like they belong and succumb to the lure of what they think will be fun and money in a gang.”
Education advocate and executive director of Youth Activating Youth, Ahmed Hassan, said it was vital communities worked with the Education Department to give young people the best chance to succeed.
“A lot of kids don’t feel supported at school and don’t want to be part of that environment because they feel like they’re not going to succeed. And they drop out to save themselves the embarrassment of feeling like they don’t fit in,” he said.
“Schools need to have culturally appropriate measures in place or staff who understand these kids’ individual challenges because there are a lot of families with language barriers who don’t understand the school curriculum.
“Education has a big part in ensuring kids continue on a positive pathway and a lot of young people are needing support.”
A Victoria Police spokesperson said youth crime was always a concern to police, with specialist investigative units such as Wayward Taskforce tasked with disrupting offending and dismantling the networks.
“The community can be assured that Victoria Police’s priority is making sure people are safe and feel safe,” they said.
Anyone who witnesses criminal or anti-social behaviour, or are concerned for their safety, is urged to contact Triple Zero (000) for an immediate police attendance.
Erin covers crime for The Age. Most recently she was a police reporter at the Geelong Advertiser.