Law enforcement agencies across Australia seized 823 firearms last month as part of a national week of action.
Operation Athena, a collaborative and national law enforcement group comprising of police from jurisdictions across Australia with assistance from Federal agencies including Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Australian Border Force (ABF) undertook a national week of action across Australia to target the trafficking and use of illicit firearms.
A number of operations were executed in conjunction with the week of action which ran from 15-21 March. They included -
- On Monday 15 March 2021, members from the Victorian Police Echo Taskforce, with assistance from the National Anti-Gangs Squad served a Firearms Prohibition Order (FPO) on two patched members of the Bros. Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, Yarraville Chapter.
- On Wednesday 17 March 2021, detectives from the NSW Police Force and Australian Federal Police (AFP) – as part of the National Anti-Gangs Squad (NAGS), arrested and charged a 33-year-old man in Coolamon, near Wagga Wagga, on firearms and drug related offences. It will be alleged in court that the senior member of the Rebels Outlaw Motorcycle Gang (OMCG) attempted to import prohibited firearms parts.
- On Thursday 18 March 2021 officers attached to the ACT Police and ACT NAGS arrested a 26-year-old Banks man in relation to alleged firearm and ammunition possession offences. The arrest follows search warrants at two residential properties at Waramanga and Banks. A sawn-off firearm, ammunition, knuckledusters and nun chucks were seized.
The coordinated response to illicit firearms resulted in the following –
- Firearms seized – 823
- Arrests made - 38
- Firearms Prohibition Orders executed – 238
- Search warrants executed - 23
- Safe storage inspections – 1545
- Dealer inspections – 25
National chair of Operation Athena, Detective Superintendent John Watson from NSW Police Drug and Firearms Squad, said that the week of action sends a timely message to those who deal with illicit firearms.
“We know that the business of prohibited firearms crosses borders and as such law enforcement agencies will continue to work together to respond accordingly," Det Supt Watson said.
“Operation Athena not only focuses on disrupting illegal activity, but also encourages licenced firearms holders to store guns safely and securely to help police reduce the risk of guns being stolen and diverted into the illegal market.
“Firearms compliance and regulation is vital to limiting the ability of organised criminal networks such as OMCGs to place the community in danger through their public acts of violence," he said.
National Anti-Gangs Squad Detective Superintendent Jason McArthur said the AFP, along with its state and territory law enforcement partners remained committed to targeting and disrupting the activities of OMCGs to ensure community safety.
“Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs believe they can operate outside the law – and we're here to remind them they cannot," Det Supt McArthur said.
“That's why coordinated Weeks of Action, such as Operation Athena, are part of the wide-ranging work the NAGS and our state and territory law enforcement partners continue to undertake to target and disrupt the illicit activities of these criminal gangs."
ABF Acting Commander Nicholas Walker said the week of action highlighted the strong shared commitment between Federal, State and international partners to combat the trade and use of illegal firearms.
“Firearms, parts or accessories are highly restricted due to their potential to be used to inflict great harm on our community and they cannot be imported without a permit," Acting Commander Walker said.
“This is a national law enforcement priority. The ABF has ramped up its border intelligence capability in recent years, working closely with agencies here in Australia and overseas to build a global web of information about those buying and selling illicit firearms and firearm parts.