By Rowan Forster
A gang of riotous African youths that wreaked havoc in Taylors Hill on Wednesday night are suspected to be from Pakenham, gathering to brawl over a relationship dispute, Victoria Police has revealed.
The suburb was sent into lockdown as riot police converged to quell a crowd of more than 100 teens, accused of hurling rocks at officers and smashing the windscreen of a police vehicle.
During the rampage, residents were reportedly told to “stay inside and lock their doors”.
Melbourne CBD and West Divisions Commander Tim Hansen said two sides from Pakenham and Melton used social media to orchestrate the fight.
“As I understand, they are from the Melton area and the Pakenham area,” he said.
“Words got out about a relationship that the different groups weren’t happy about and through social media they made an agreement to meet in the location and have a fight.
“We certainly understand the genesis of this gathering, this public order incident.”
It is believed detectives are undertaking raids across Melton and Pakenham to continue their enquiries.
Police revealed they are liaising with schools to gather information.
“I’m not aware of the specifics of what schools we’re speaking to, but we’ve made contact with several principals,” he said.
“We are making further avenues of enquiries through community groups.”
It comes just 12 hours after four teenagers were arrested in Pakenham, accused of violently bashing a Bentleigh East man in Cheltenham as he withdrew cash from an ATM.
An Officer man, 19, Pakenham boy, 14 and two 17-year-old’s from Cranbourne, allegedly beat the victim with a stick, stealing his cash and a credit card before driving away with his Black Land Rover.
The spate of crime, including a Savage Street carjacking on Friday and a robbery at Pakenham’s Donutopia café on Sunday, has incited frustration from the community.
Ash Crofts told the Gazette she was considering relocating from Pakenham in wake of the recent violent crimes.
“Nobody can downplay this or pretend it doesn’t exist, because it just seems to be escalating every day,” she said.
“You can’t tell the people who are bashed or carjacked that this is an overblown problem.
“Pakenham is a place where lots of families move, where housing prices are still manageable to raise kids, but now you can’t seem to do that and feel safe.”
Latrobe MP Jason Wood said he was extremely saddened to hear of the experiences from victims of crime in his electorate.
“I had one lady who witnessed the carjacking near Pakenham shopping centre on Friday approach me, and she said she could barely sleep,” he said.
“She’s become extremely fearful for her safety.”
He said the issue of youth and gang crime first started to rear its head two years ago, after a spree of aggravated home invasions in Beaconsfield.
“To be perfectly honest, when I raised this there’s been an absolute denial by state and federal Labor politicians.
“When I first called this out, from two years ago, I said this was only going to get worse.”
Anyone with information should contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.