A police taskforce dedicated to disrupting outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) in the state will now have a permanent base to target criminal activity in Southern NSW.
While the location is yet to be revealed, Raptor South’s base will be in the Illawarra region.
However, with a relationship with Region Enforcement Squads in Wagga, Monaro and the South East, there won’t be a place across the south of the state where OMCG members can hide.
“We’re not just restricted to the Illawarra or Shoalhaven areas, we’re looking at the entire South Coast, out to Wagga, the Goulburn areas, certainly the border around Albury – these are focal points for OMCGs and other organised crime networks,” Raptor South investigations coordinator, Detective Inspector Brad Abdy, said.
“Our highways are regularly used to distribute illicit drugs between Sydney, Melbourne and even our regional areas.”
It’s estimated there are currently 300 members of OMCGs – such as the Comancheros, Finks and Bandidos – in Southern NSW.
While members may not be wearing colours, they are still acting covertly in the community.
NSW Southern Region Commander Peter Cotter said the “permanency” of Raptor South began today (23 January), following a trial that began in 2018 to understand what the taskforce could achieve in Southern NSW.
“The trial is over, the game begins today,” he said.
“If you think you can hide in the bush, if you think you can hide in Southern Region, in our big cities or our country towns, you are mistaken.”
Raptor South comprises 25 staff, who have been recruited from across the state, including from the Murrumbidgee, Wagga Wagga and Goulburn areas.
Commander Cotter warned anyone who both signed up to an OMCG and took part in criminal activity, “then clearly you want to sign up to Raptor”.
“We’re not naive to say that country towns do not have underbellies of crime,” he said.
“Within [our area] are numerous regional cities and numerous country towns, some of them remote.
“Irrespective if they are regional cities or remote locations, if you are into organised crime and you are an outlaw motorcycle gang member, then expect to be targeted, it’s a very simple message.”
Strike Force Raptor was initially formed in 2009, and since that time there have been more than 7000 arrests, 16,000 charges laid, $20 million in cash and 2000 firearms seized, and hundreds of thousands of kilograms of drugs destroyed.
It became the standalone Raptor Squad in 2021.
Commander Cotter said a permanent presence in regional NSW was an important step, as illicit substances such as firearms and drugs were often transported across the state and the country using our highways.
“What this means is organised criminals – predominantly outlaw motorcycle gang members – will not be safe on the highway, will not be safe in their homes and will not be safe if they commence or continue organised criminal activity,” he said.
“We will be on the highway, we’ll be on the local streets and the backstreets, ensuring if you’re carrying illicit substances, you will be stopped, you will be searched, and clearly, if you’re carrying, you can expect to be arrested.”