MELBOURNE: Australian police today arrested eight teenagers in connection with a spate of violent armed robberies targeting taxi drivers, including an Indian cabbie, in Melbourne’s western suburbs.
The teenagers are expected to be charged with offences including armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, assault and property damage later today.
Police Superintendent Rick Nugent said the alleged offenders’ ages were shocking as was the violence of their alleged crimes, according to local media reports.
“It’s extremely concerning,” he said, adding that “we saw from the vision of the taxis that it’s a very violent crime that’s been committed on these taxi drivers and it’s very concerning that people of this age are involved in this kind of activity.”
A taskforce was set up yesterday to probe the series of robberies. Most of the offenders are expected to face a children’s court once charged.
Investigators from the taskforce raided four properties in the western suburbs after a briefing at Sunshine police station about 6.30am. Nugent said police did not expect to make any further arrests in relation to the robberies.
Five cabs were targeted in 90 minutes starting midnight on Sunday, police said, adding a group of seven males using stolen cars and wielding baseball bats were responsible for the attacks.
30-year-old Indian driver Harpreet Gill was driving his taxi through Sunshine suburb when his car was rammed from behind and a second car pulled up abruptly in front of him.
Gill said he handed over his mobile phone and some 150 Australian dollar in cash. He was then punched in the face which resulted in cuts to his nose and lips. “I was bleeding from my nose and my face. I just dropped off a passenger in Sunshine West,” Gill said.
“I saw a car approaching from behind at some speed. I thought they were trying to overtake me so I pulled over.
“It was terrifying. I was too scared. I don’t know how to describe it.”
Sunny Singh said one of his drivers suffered a deep gash to his head and another was badly shaken when he had cash and his phone stolen. Both assaults happened in Sunshine.
“We have to put a stop to this, nobody wants to work the night shift any more, they are just too scared to drive,” Singh told The Age yesterday. -PTI