By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A police blitz on illegal weapons in the South East has uncovered Fountain Gate shopping centre and bus stops as a particular problem area.
With extraordinary search powers, Operation OMNI police members arrested 37 people and seized 23 knives and other weapons including a billiard ball in a sock at Dandenong station, Dandenong Plaza, Fountain Gate and Pakenham CBD and station between 20-22 January.
Also seized were 300 grams of illicit drugs such as cannabis and ice.
Among the charges were possession of drugs and prohibited weapons, as well as 11 people wanted on outstanding warrants.
An alleged outlaw motorcycle gang member was charged with possessing steroids.
In total, 105 offenders were identified with 17 cautions and 26 infringement notices issued.
Under the ‘proactive’ operation, police were given extra powers to detect illegal weapons in designated search areas.
Police checked more than 650 people and 800 vehicles, leading to searches of 501 people and 59 vehicles.
Acting Inspector Dean Grande said the aim was to detect illegal weapons in “high risk locations” and “get them off the streets before they cause any harm in our community”.
“Overall we can say the operation was a success.
“It’s certainly good to get (those knives) out of the community.
“Those knife offences in particular are a real problem for us and a real strong focus.”
Most OMNI offences were detected at Fountain Gate shopping centre and bus stops, Act Insp Grande said.
The twice-annual OMNI blitzes were expected to become more frequent and target “priority” locations.
“That’s an area that we will focus more on – at the shopping centre.”
In the main, offenders were youthful – as young as 15 years.
“The other side of the coin is we speak to youth who have zero to limited offending. We want to steer them to the right programs … to stop their recidivism.”
The high-visibility police presence aimed to ensure the public felt safer during school holidays and “post Covid life”.
“We’re seeing a lot more people are going out enjoying life, kids are out and about.
“We want to make sure they’re safe. We know they’re vulnerable and they’re prone to attack by those that are out to commit those offences.
“Our primary role is to make sure that doesn’t happen and to prevent those offences in the first instance.”