Canberra, Oct 10 (IANS) A vigilante group has been patrolling the streets of Melbourne to protect residents against criminal gangs in the southeastern Australian city.
The “Soldiers of Odin Australia”, a self-proclaimed far-right “patriot” group originating in Finland, has been patrolling the city every night, Xinhua news agency reported.
The group, whose members wear distinctive black jackets emblazoned with a Norse war helmet and the Australian flag, is the first vigilante-style organisation to operate in the city.
Jay Moore, the national president of the group, said the patrols have come in response to the Apex crime gang responsible for rising aggravated burglaries and car thefts across Melbourne.
“We are fed up and our communities are fed up,” Moore told the media on Monday.
“We are going where Apex and other gangs are popping up and causing trouble,” he added.
“The kind of violence we are seeing on the streets is not something our culture is used to. Our main goal is to make and keep our streets safe. We stand for old-school Aussie values,” Moore said.
The police said that while they were aware of the group, they rejected the notion that the city has been rocked by a crime wave, with recent Crime Statistics Agency data revealing crime rates in the CBD fell 0.5 per cent in the past year.
Other community groups are uneasy about the emergence of unauthorised vigilante squads. “I have never come across anything like this before in Melbourne,” Brendan Nottle, CEO of the Salvation Army, said.
“The city doesn’t need that kind of intimidatory appearance or punitive approach on the streets,” Nottle said.
Moore, who maintained that while the Soldiers of Odin was “anti-immigration” and “anti-Islam”, the “Soldiers of Odin Australia” group was not racist. He said the patrols had not been involved in any violent altercations.
“A big part of what we do is about having a visual presence — being proactive. As long as we have deterred anything from happening, that’s good,” Moore said.