Refugee parents of out-of-control youths are sending their troublemaking kids back to war-torn countries to “straighten them out”, fearing their children will spiral deeper into a life of crime if they stay here.
Melbourne’s spate of crime at the hand of the notorious Apex gang is causing families to fear the worst for their children’s futures.
The gang is known for its public disturbance, stealing luxury cars and carrying out violent armed robberies and home invasions, acting out scenes reminiscent of violent video games like Grand Theft Auto, police said.
Apex gang members are predominately of African or Sudanese ethnicities, and mostly in their early 20s, but children as young as 13 have recently been arrested in connection with violent home invasions and carjackings.
On Tuesday, police arrested 13 teenagers after a gang of thieves pounced on a St Albans family, in Melbourne's west, while they were in their BMW.
A 12-year-old victim was dragged out of her family’s car and told she would be killed, and the family home was robbed.
The youngest of the gang was just 13 years old.
The arrests come after a 17-year-old Taylors Hill boy and a 14-year-old boy from South Yarra were arrested on Sunday, accused of smashing their way into Caroline Springs home and stealing two cars on Saturday.
They have also been questioned over an aggravated burglary at a Taylors Lakes home Sunday morning, where vehicles were also stolen.
Earlier this month, six African teenagers were arrested after an allegedly stolen BMW with nine people on board crashed into a pole in Melbourne.
But the gang, from Melbourne’s south-east, named after Apex St in Dandenong North from where several of its founders hail, has been responsible for violent crimes and on police radar for some time.
Families attending Melbourne's Moomba street festival in March were left fleeing for safety as at least 100 gang members ran amok, brawling in Federation Square and Swanston Street.
Police say some parents are at their wits’ end and dobbing their children in after recognising them on news reports, or going out into the streets to find their children before the police do.
Single African mother of six, identified only as ‘Zaynab’, told the Herald Sun parents were helpless to discipline their children, fearing authorities would intervene if a firm hand was taken.
“I know in this country you can’t do much. You can’t yell to your son, you can’t discipline them,” she told the newspaper.
The woman, who arrived in Australia about 10 years ago, has sent her teenage son to Africa to live with extended family and says the move was “very hard” but has “totally changed” his behavior.’
She said she will not let him return to Australia until he is 18 and learns right from wrong and sees the error in his ways.
Melbourne police said children living a life of crime were often sent to Africa to live with relatives or attend boarding school to “straighten them out,” according to the Herald Sun.
The Apex gang is being blamed for an alarming spike in crime in Melbourne, with Victoria’s crime rate soaring by 12.4 per cent in the past year.
More than half a million offences have been recorded, leading to claims young thieves are running riot on the suburbs.
Car thefts are up 22 per cent across the state, while house burglaries have increased almost 14 per cent.
Weapons and explosives offences have soared 18.5 per cent, theft has increased 16 per cent and drug use and possession is up 13.4 per cent.
Reported family violence offences have also jumped 10 per cent since last year.
Crime in the area where the Apex gang is most active, in Dandenong in Melbourne’s south-east is up 24 per cent.
Enrollments in self-defence classes have also soared in the region, as residents try to prepare themselves should they fall victim to a gang attack.
Victoria Police has escalated its response to home invasions and carjackings across the state by allocating additional resources to prevent, deter and investigate these incidents, a police spokesperson said.
"Day and night patrols are being conducted at high risk locations to prevent offences taking place."
More than 75 people have been arrested since Operation Cosmas began in May.