By Daile Cross and Lauren Pilat
West Australian Police have responded to the gangland execution of Rebels boss Nick Martin by launching Operation Ravello, warning all gangs they’ll be coming down on members and associates in force.
State crime assistant commissioner Brad Royce on Monday said the 100-strong operation comprised of detectives and officers was launched in response to the homicide of Mr Martin with an added focus to clamp down on gang crime.
Mr Royce said homicide detectives would operate Ravello until they “run the offender to ground” with the operation also targeting potential gang retaliation to ensure gangs don’t take the law into their own hands.
“Whilst it’s a homicide and a single incident we’re taking it as a far bigger picture event and to ensure the community remains safe we’re taking the fight back to the gangs in Western Australia,” he said.
“I can assure you that all gangs, whether they’re involved or not are going to be seeing a lot more attention from WA Police and our partners and when we come we’ll be coming in force, we make no apology for that.
“If the one per cent want to come out into our community and commit acts of violence where we go with our families then we’ll go into their community. The message is pretty clearly to those gang members, their associates, nominees: ‘keep your head down because we’re coming’.”
Mr Royce said finding the perpetrator was going to take a while.
In response to reports that the execution was carried out by a ‘professional sniper’, Mr Royce said there wasn’t anything professional about murdering someone in front of women and children.
“Anyone can take a long shot if they’re not worried about collateral damage,” he said. “A murderer is not going to worry about families … around the area.”
The second victim of the shooting, 31-year-old Ricky Chapman, is yet to be spoken to.
Western Australia’s Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said the whole country’s police forces were on high alert after the shocking execution of the senior Rebels member while a five-year-old boy sat next to him on his wife’s lap at a Perth motorsport event on Saturday evening.
WA’s top cop also lamented WA’s failure to pass tough anti-consorting legislation, while similar laws exist in all other parts of Australia.
On Saturday night WA Police made all the other states and territories aware of the shocking public shooting.
“The Australian police forces, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Australian Federal Police, we have a joined up approach to dealing with outlaw motorcycle groups,” Mr Dawson said.
“There’s no air gap between police across the country because we all regard them, as we should, as criminal gangs so they are and will be involved.”
Bikie boss Nick Martin was fatally shot at the Perth Motorplex in front of hundred of spectators, with his wife and daughter sitting close by.
Mr Dawson told Radio 6PR it was impossible to predict what the bikie gangs might do next, the only thing he could predict in this situation was that police across the country would be relentless in pursuing criminal gangs.
“When you know that there’s a five-year-old boy sitting alongside a man who has been murdered, in a very public venue, ticketed venue where many innocent members of the community are sitting watching a motorsporting event, this is really an outrageous act of criminal violence,” he said.
“No West Australian, no Australian wants this sort of society to live in and that’s why appropriately we should be making every effort to deal with this.”
Police sources told Nine News Perth they were investigating whether the hit was undertaken by a professional sniper, who may have come into the state since Western Australia’s COVID-19 border was opened.
On Sunday WA police raided the Mongols clubhouse, with two members of the gang facing charges. They also raided the Hells Angels clubhouse and seized items there.
A property in Shoalwater, south of Perth, was searched where police found two firearm silencers and five firearms. A bikie associate has been charged over the unlicensed firearms and being in possession of three or more firearms.
Mr Dawson said he would not be drawn into talking publicly about possible motives for the shooting.
“You’ve got criminal gang members who have clearly got a predisposition to violence,” he said. “Trying to predict what a criminal gang will do is not an exact science. We’re dealing with people who don’t operate within the rules of society.”
Tough anti-bikie laws failed to be passed in 2020
Mr Dawson declared police would be relentless in investigating and prosecuting criminal gangs but WA remained without tough anti-consorting laws despite the Commissioner telling the government they should be a priority.
In New South Wales, a person over 14 commits an offence if the person consorts with at least two convicted offenders and the person consorts with each convicted offender on at least two occasions.
In Queensland, a person could not habitually consort with at least two recognised offenders while in South Australia, it is if the person consorts with at least two convicted offenders and the person consorts with each convicted offender on at least two occasions.
It was an indictable offence in Victoria if a person associates with an individual on three or more occasions in a three-month period or six or more occasions in a 12-month period.
Mr Dawson said the laws that would stop bikie members from communicating and associating with others had stalled in the WA Parliament. These powers would be used to seriously disrupt bikie gangs.
“I was disappointed that we haven’t got the powers that I believe should be there,” Mr Dawson said. “I don’t want the community to be living their lives in fear.”
Shadow Minister for Police and Justice Peter Katsambanis said the reason the bill wasn’t passed was because Labor completely mismanaged their legislative agenda.
By only bringing the bill on for debate in the dying days of parliament in November the government simply highlighted that this legislation was not a priority for them,” he said.
Attorney General John Quigley said the bill stalled in the Legislative Council in November. He blamed the opposition for only eight of the 40 clauses passing in the upper house.
Mr Quigley accused upper house member and former Attorney General Michael Mischin of “stupid time wasting” that had cost police the powers they wanted.
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He said the laws would be so powerful that even if bikies were caught talking to each other over the phone they could be arrested and possibly imprisoned for up to five years.
“The Labor government is prepared to give the police all the weapons they need to disrupt this sort of behaviour,” he said.
He said had the Bill passed, WA would already have in place the toughest anti-consorting laws in the country.
As campaigning for the 2021 March election in WA heats up, Opposition Leader Zak Kirkup pledged an additional 250 specialist police officers on top of the Labor government’s 950, saying he would give the Police Commissioner the extra resources he needed to bring outlaw bikie gangs under control.
“West Australian families deserve to feel safe when they venture out into the community with their children, they should be able to feel safe in their own front yard and in their own home,” he said.