Fears crime will rise as MEOCS focuses on shootings

The NSW Police Force's highly successful Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad has been effectively rebranded the state's "shooting squad" as part of the response to out of control gun crime in Sydney's suburbs.

Fairfax Media can reveal MEOCS has halted all its covert and proactive investigations to focus solely on public place shootings.

MEOCS began a six-month trial as the primary body to investigate the shootings, which has prompted a political slanging match between state and federal governments over exactly who should take responsibility.

The trial, which started on February 1, began after Deputy Commissioner of Specialist Operations Catherine Burn convened a Gun Crime Forum late last year, leading to the creation of new operational procedures for dealing with the spate of shootings that have plagued Sydney's west and south-western suburbs.

Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Ms Burn are expected to make the gun crime initiative announcement later today, code named Operation Apollo, which they say will "build on the success of Operation Spartan during the past 12 months".

But while the police hierarchy believes this is the key to turning around the rising numbers of drive-by shootings, those in the trenches are already expressing concern.

Senior officers who spoke to Fairfax Media believe that south-west Sydney suburbs will once more become a reinvigorated breeding ground for those Middle Eastern crime gangs whose criminal activities have nothing to do with firearms.

"Watch Middle Eastern crime start to go through the roof while we run around looking into bullet holes in walls," said one senior officer.

"Car rebirthing, fraud, drugs, extortions - they're all the crimes we actively investigate on a daily basis, and now they're going to get ignored," said another.

Another senior detective said MEOCS investigators were responsible for running a large number of covert informants, who it is feared will simply opt out of their arrangements in the absence of these ready relationships.

As explained to Fairfax Media, the plan highlights a range of fresh approaches to tackling gun crime, amid genuine fears that the frequency of public place shootings will continue to rise if not addressed.

The new 'Concept of Operations' appoints MEOCS as the primary investigative body for all public place shootings, requiring their own charter of operation to be amended "to focus the squad on public place shootings" and task it's investigative resources on the same.

These crimes have traditionally been the domain of the Firearms and Organised Crime Squad, but the police hierarchy has now deemed MEOCS - one of the largest squads at State Crime Command - the most appropriate respondents.


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