MALCOLM Turnbull has been called out by an African community leader who accused him of using Sudanese "street gang" problems in Victoria to score political points.
Richard Deng, from the South Sudanese Community Association of Victoria, said the Prime Minister was jumping on the issue as a "tool to win elections".
"The Prime Minister needs to man up, support the State Government, support the African community, don't target them just because of the political agenda you want to drive," he said at a press conference yesterday.
Earlier this week, Mr Turnbull accused Victoria's Premier Daniel Andrews of failing to deal with gang violence in Melbourne.
Mr Turnbull said he was "very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne".
Debate on the problem has reached fever pitch after a South Sudanese footballer from Melbourne, Nelly Yoa, accused police and politicians of sweeping the issue under the carpet.
And yesterday, the state's Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton acknowledged today that there is a "street gang issue" in Victoria.
"They are young thugs, [they] are not an organised crime group like a Middle-Eastern gang group or an outlaw gang," said Patton at a conference.
"But, they are behaving like street gangs, so let's call them that. We acknowledge that there is an issue. This has been the case for some period of time and we've openly said that."
However, Mr Deng said that more support needed to be given to Sudanese youths when they were released from prison.
"They need to be supported, so they don't go back again," he told The Age. "This is where the problem is.
"We want to have a structure in place to help these young men who are put in prison, released and the next day commit crime."
The comments come as Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed people in Melbourne are "scared to go out at restaurants" at night because of African street gang violence.
"People don't see this in NSW, in Queensland, but the reality is people are scared to go out at restaurants of a night time because they're followed home by these gangs, home invasions, and cars are stolen," Mr Dutton told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday, without referring to any specific examples.
BUT JUST HOW BIG IS THE ISSUE?
Despite a string of high-profile incidents involving African youths, the overall crime rate in Victoria fell for the first time in six years last year - according to the state's Crime Statistics Agency (CSA).
The agency released its latest data report in December - which stated that overall criminal incidents recorded in Victoria was down 4.8 per cent and there were significant downward trends in many crime types.
Census data shows people born in Sudan make up about 0.1 per cent of Victoria's population. The CSA told a federal parliamentary inquiry on migrant settlement outcomes that about 1.5 per cent of criminal offenders in Victoria are Sudanese.
The agency's data for the year to June 2017 shows Sudanese-born offenders were allegedly involved in 98 aggravated burglaries in the state, compared to 540 Australian-born offenders.
For the same period, 45 serious assaults were allegedly committed by Sudanese-born offenders, compared to 1462 Australian-born offenders.
The data shows, unsurprisingly, that the majority of crimes in Victoria are committed by Australians. It also shows Sudanese immigrants are over-represented in the crime statistics.
However, Anthony Kelly, the executive officer of Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre, said the figures should be treated with caution.
He told The Guardian the Sudanese community in Australia has a much younger average age and were subject to issues such as poverty and a lack of engagement in work and school - which increased the likelihood of being involved in crime.
IS THERE A YOUTH CRIME PROBLEM?
Again, youth-related crimes often make headlines, but CSA data shows alleged crimes by under-25s have dropped dramatically in the past decade.
"The proportion of incidents committed by alleged offenders under the age of 25 has fallen from half of all incidents recorded in 2007-2008 to 40 per cent of all incidents in 2015-2016," it stated in a report.
"The proportion of young offenders recorded with higher numbers of incidents has increased slightly over time. For example, during 2007-2008, 17 per cent of offenders under the age of 25 had three or more incidents recorded, and this increased to 22 per cent in 2015-2016.
"Over the past five years, the proportions of young offenders recorded for offences against the person, drug offences and justice procedures offences have increased, while the proportions recorded for property and deception offences and other offences have decreased."
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