NSW and Victoria Police have arrested 27 people in total and seized multiple firearms, following the conclusion of a joint-agency police operation across Southern NSW and north-eastern Victoria, targeting outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) and organised criminal networks (OCNs).
Operation Blue Ember was established by the NSW Police Force State Crime Command’s Criminal Groups and Raptor Squads – in partnership with Victoria Police (VicPOL), the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC), and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) – to gather intelligence and further disrupt OMCG activities across the Riverina and the Albury-Wodonga border regions.
During the multi-agency operation – which commenced at 6am Monday (20 March 2023) and concluded at 4pm yesterday (Thursday 23 March 2023) – NSW Police conducted 24 Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) searches, served 18 FPOs, made 19 arrests and seized three firearms and amounts of ammunition. Victoria Police seized one firearm and eight prohibited weapons and arrested eight people.
Incidents of note include:
- About 10.30am on Monday (20 March 2023), officers from Raptor South observed a number of motorcyclists travelling south along the Hume Highway wearing Rebels OMCG paraphernalia. Police conducted a vehicle stop, where they served nine consorting warnings, six defect notices (red and yellow) and issued eight traffic infringement notices.
- About 7.15am on Monday, police attended a Gundagai home and served a 67-year-old man with a FPO. During a subsequent FPO search of the home, officers located a rear shed with a large amount of Rebels OMCG paraphernalia, fridges with alcohol and a cash register. No items were seized, and inquiries are continuing.
- At 11am on Wednesday (22 March 2023), Raptor South officers attended a home on Wingara Street, North Albury, to serve a FPO on a 37-year-old man. During a subsequent search of the home, officers located a gel blaster, ammunition, Finks OMCG paraphernalia, electronic devices, and a Harley Davidson – believed to be stolen. All items were seized for forensic examination. The man was taken to Albury Police Station and charged with possess unauthorised prohibited firearm and possess ammunition without holding licence/permit. He was refused bail to appear at Albury Local Court yesterday, where he was granted conditional bail to reappear at the same court on Wednesday 5 April 2023.
- About 9.15am also on Wednesday, officer attended a home on Roper Place, West Albury, to execute a FPO search. About 10 minutes later, a 39-year-old man returned to the home, allegedly driving whilst disqualified. He was arrested, before he allegedly refused to provide a roadside drug test; he was taken to Albury Police Station, where he allegedly refused to provide an oral fluid sample. He was charged with drive whilst disqualified and refuse/fail to provide oral fluid sample. He was granted conditional bail to appear before Albury Local Court on Wednesday 19 April 2023.
- At 1pm on Wednesday, Raptor South officers attended a home in Albury, suspected of being a clubhouse for the Black Uhlans OMCG. Police were later granted entry to the premises, with licensing police seizing a number of documents allegedly detailing alcohol pricing. Inquiries are continuing.
- On Monday (20 March 2023), a 42-year-old Echuca man, who was the subject of a FPO, was arrested and charged for possess small quantity of amphetamine. He was granted bail to appear at Echuca Magistrates Court on Tuesday 9 May 2023.
- Also on Monday, VIPER Taskforce officers executed a search warrant at Echuca, where they arrested a 31-year-old man and seized a homemade shotgun, ammunition, and an imitation handgun.
- On Tuesday (21 March 2023), a 23-year-old man – also from Echuca – was arrested and charged, after Victoria Police seized two imitation handguns, one imitation longarm, cannabis, shotgun shells and prescription medication. He was charged with various weapons and drug offences.
State Crime Command Director of Crime Operations, Detective Chief Superintendent Jason Weinstein, said one of the purposes of this operation was to gain a greater understanding of the OMCG footprint at the NSW-Victorian border.
“Understanding the activities of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs in cross-border towns is integral to disrupting organised crime in our regions,” Detective Chief Superintendent Weinstein said.
“Cross-border crime is ever present in our society, with the attraction of the drug trade pushing organised criminal figures out of the city and into regional towns, believing they are safe from being targeted and out of constant law enforcement attention.
“This couldn’t be further from the truth – particularly with the establishment of our Raptor South Squad, we continue to gather intelligence and information about what groups are active and their activities, which are potentially linked to organised crime.
“Raptor South officers have the local knowledge base of the Riverina and border communities, working closely with Victoria Police’s VIPER Taskforce to become even more well-equipped to deal with any organised criminal activity moving forward.
“We will continue to roll out these cross-border operations and work collaboratively with our law enforcement partners to further prevent, disrupt and respond to organised crime in our state,” Detective Chief Superintendent Weinstein said.
Victoria Police’s Detective Superintendent Jason Kelly said this operation is simply one example of how both agencies will continue to focus their attention on organised crime.
“This multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional operation highlights the importance and significant resources both Victoria Police and NSW Police are prepared to place on disrupting organised criminal groups from causing harm within our communities.
“There can be a perception that it is easier to hide in the country. That is simply not true. Make no mistake – this is a warning from the VIPER Taskforce, together with the Raptor Squad and our other partners: if you are involved in organised criminal activity, you will be detected and you will be held accountable, irrespective of a state border.
“This week of joint action between VIPER and Raptor is significant in many ways. It’s the first time we’ve worked together on an operation like this, but it certainly won't be the last.
“The message is simple: if you are involved in serious and or organised crime, we will be unrelenting in our mission to disrupt your activities and protect our community,” Det Supt Kelly said.
ACIC Executive Director Intelligence Operations, Jennifer Hurst, said that this operation was another example of the importance of agency collaboration.
“By working together, we are preventing organised crime groups from targeting our communities – the ACIC will continue to use our capabilities to gather intelligence to assist partners to dismantle criminal networks.”
NSW Crime Commission’s Executive Director of Criminal Investigations, Darren Bennett, said that this operation highlights the important of collaboration in tackling crime in regional areas.
“Crime doesn’t discriminate between the city and the country. The impacts are just as significant if not more so on our regional communities.
“By collaborating with our law enforcement partners we can work towards combatting crime across the state.”
Anyone with information about Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMCGs) or organised criminal activity should contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.