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Vic govt still under fire over youth crime

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January 03, 2018

Youth Affairs Minister Jenny Mikakos (file) warns simplistic solutions to youth crime will not work.

Anti-gang police will back up local officers in Melbourne's west as the force cracks down on young thugs running riot.

Victoria Police has defended its handling of reports of escalating crime, particularly from groups of African teens.

Acting Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said Victorian Police had been tackling the issue for the past two years.

"There's a common misconception that Victoria Police does not and has not acknowledged that it is an issue - that is incorrect," he told reporters on Tuesday.

"We have said for a significant period of time there is an issue with over-representation by African youth in serious and violent offending, as well as public disorder issues."

Victoria Police has previously shied away from saying the youths are part of a gang, but on Tuesday they said the thugs were behaving like "street gangs".

Mr Patton's comments come after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Monday said he was "very concerned at the growing gang violence and lawlessness in Victoria, in particular in Melbourne", and accused Premier Daniel Andrews of failing to deal with the problem.

Mr Patton said the state's gang crime squad, created last year, would be used to assist local investigators in dealing with "incidents of African youth crime."

Police Minister Lisa Neville said the issue needed to be tackled socially, not just from police.

"I would appreciate, maybe, the Commonwealth Government focusing on other issues, like providing migration support to immigrants coming into our community, stop cutting youth employment programs that are also so critical, TAFE problems, university - all of those things that are so critical to really getting to some of the root causes of this issue rather than playing politics of this nature," she told ABC News on Tuesday.

"We're working across government. We already have other ministers in their portfolios working with the African community, working on employment programs, working on education programs.

"We need to do both. That is - a strong law-and-order focus, making sure these young people are arrested, held to account, but also putting in place the services that we need in order to disrupt this and prevent this sort of behaviour into the future."

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