By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Fourteen men have been arrested in two days of anti-hoon police raids across Melbourne suburbs such as Springvale, Dandenong North, Officer and Hampton Park.
Over two days, Victoria Police officers raided 14 properties as well as seizing 12 cars of a total value of more than $370,000 including a $100,000-plus 2015 Mercedes B CTS Roadster.
The other seized cars were a 2011 Ford Falcon G6E sedan, 2016 Holden Commodore SS sedan, 1996 Ford Falcon XR6 sedan, 1994 Ford Falcon XR8 sedan, 1989 Nissan Skyline R31 sedan, 1995 Nissan 180 SX coupe, 1995 Holden Commodore S sedan, 2011 Mercedes C63 sedan, 1999 Nissan Stagea wagon, 1992 Holden Commodore Wagon and 2010 Ford XR6 sedan.
The affluence of some of the drivers – aged 18 to 45 years – with “well maintained, expensive” vehicles might surprise the community, , Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Russell Barrett said.
“They have the capacity to entertain themselves but they choose to entertain themselves by putting the community at risk.”
If convicted, several of the drivers could expect their cars to be forfeited and crushed
About 20 forfeited cars are crushed in Victoria each week.
The arrested men, aged 18 to 45 years, face “serious criminal” charges carrying up to six years’ jail.
Such as conduct endangering a person, possess prohibited weapons, possess controlled weapon, possess drug of dependence, possess imitation firearm, attempted criminal damage and behave in a riotous manner.
“The penalties for hooning are significant and our message to anyone out there is simple – we will find you, arrest you, put you before the courts and seize your car.
“We have no tolerance for illegal hoon activity and remain committed to disrupting and prosecuting anyone involved in this type of dangerous behaviour.”
The raids were in relation to an alleged illegal hoon meet in which the crowd turned on police at Marine Parade, St Kilda on 21 January.
Witnesses told police they feared for people’s lives as burnouts and reckless driving abounded, Asst Comm Barrett said.
Investigators trawled through CCTV to help identify alleged culprits. More related arrests are expected, Asst Comm Barrett said.
His message to hoons was blunt: “We’ll identify you, we’ll locate you, we’ll arrest you and your vehicle will be seized.”
Police have launched a statewide Operation Achilles in response to a rising number of illegal hoon meets and “intentional high risk driving” events in recent months.
Asst Comm Barrett said hoon activity was “dangerous and not simply a bit of harmless fun”.
“We’ve seen these kinds of behaviours result in both death and serious injury.
“Operation Achilles will target those who blatantly disregard the law and as a result, put the safety of the entire community at risk.
“We know this type of behaviour is incredibly frustrating for local residents and police are committed to working closely with community groups to address their concerns.”
As part of Operation Achilles, police investigators will collaborate across the state, sharing intelligence to reduce and disrupt hoon activity and identify its organisers.
In the past, hoons would move out of a region with heavy police activity into another. The aim was to ensure everywhere in Victoria would be too “hot” for hoons to gather, Asst Comm Barrett said.
Proactive police patrols will attend identified hoon hotspots and monitor known groups and persons of interest.
The aim would be to investigate every meet, and to make arrests that night, Asst Comm Barrett said.
Police will also approach councils, the State Government and businesses for “infrastructure enhancements” to deter hoons in key hot spots.
They will also examine possible “regulatory” changes.
To report any dangerous driving or hoon activity, call the local police station or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.