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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC elevates readiness to combat weapons-related crime — 08.08.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC elevates readiness to combat weapons-related crime — 08.08.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC elevates readiness to combat weapons-related crime — 08.08.2011

CMC elevates readiness to combat weapons-related crime — 08.08.2011

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) has stepped up its readiness to combat a broad sweep of weapons-related crime, working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service (QPS).

The move which fast-tracks the CMC’s ability to investigate organised criminal activity specifically involving offences against the Weapons Act 1990 follows heightened public concern about an apparent recent spike in violent crime and use of firearms in South East Queensland.

However, in a joint announcement today, CMC Assistant Commissioner, Crime, John Callanan and QPS Detective Superintendent John Sheppard, who leads State Crime Operations Command’s Organised Crime Group, cautioned against any alarmist reaction to the news.

“Over the past decade, serious weapons-related offences, including murder and armed robbery, have declined across Queensland,” Detective Superintendent Sheppard said.

“Even with the recent spike in armed robberies on the Gold Coast, prompting the set-up of a specialist police unit focusing on violent offences [Taskforce Resolve], we have no reason to believe crime rates are on the rise.”

Similarly, Mr Callanan said crime market intelligence did not point to a significant black market trade in weapons, adding that there was currently little indication the public was at greater risk of weapons-related crime.

He said an emerging trend identified during CMC investigations focusing on a range of organised crime groups — notably illicit drug syndicates and outlaw motorcycle gangs — suggested an increasing presence of concealed firearms, but stressed that this did not necessarily translate into an immediate threat to the public.

“Unlawful possession of firearms is often incidental to the core business of organised crime networks, underlining the primary attraction of weapons for protection — to deter interference in illegal enterprises and, ultimately, ensure profitability,” Mr Callanan said.

“While this does not necessarily result in an immediate threat to the public, we must always be mindful of the fact that criminal activity has the capacity to escalate quickly and dramatically when weapons are involved.”

Mr Callanan said it was in the public interest for the CMC to elevate its readiness to act on suspected organised criminal activity involving unlawful possession, use, supply, trafficking in, manufacture and modification of weapons.

He said the introduction of a more timely response to suspected weapons-related offences as a stand-alone aspect of organised crime stemmed from a new “general referral” approved by the Crime Reference Committee, a statutory body that includes community representatives.

The CMC's power to investigate major crime, which encompasses organised crime, criminal paedophilia, serious crime and terrorism, has always been referral-based — either by standing “general referrals” that target areas of major crime or “specific referrals” granted by the committee on a case-by-case basis.

General referrals also open the way for rapid response to requests for assistance from the QPS and other law enforcement agencies for use of the CMC’s special investigative powers.

“We already have similar authority to move quickly when it comes to investigating suspected organised crime involving established criminal networks, money laundering and outlaw motorcycle gangs,” said Mr Callanan, who chairs the Crime Reference Committee, also comprising the Police Commissioner, CMC Chairperson and the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian.

“At the end of the day, the CMC focuses its crime-fighting efforts on criminal activity which our intelligence and research indicates is most likely to do serious harm to the people of Queensland. So, the addition of a weapons-related organised crime referral further enhances our capabilities.

“It’s generally acknowledged that weapons and weapons-related crime will always present a challenge to law enforcement globally. While it is unlikely that we will ever be able to eradicate this threat to public safety, we can now act faster, which is a very important step.”

While general referrals enable the CMC to act immediately, there is still a requirement to notify the Crime Reference Committee as soon as practicable after the commencement of an investigation. The committee is also obliged under the Act to review general referrals every five years.

The Crime and Misconduct Act 2001 gives the CMC investigative powers that are not available to the QPS, including coercive hearings, without creating an alternative police service. Instead, the CMC’s effectiveness depends on its partnerships with the QPS and other law enforcement agencies, its multidisciplinary approach to investigations and use of its special powers.

In the past financial year, the CMC conducted coercive hearings over 114 days in Brisbane, Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Cairns, calling 106 witnesses to give evidence in relation to 23 serious crime investigations including murders, drug trafficking, money laundering and child sex offending. Over the same period, it undertook 28 major crime investigations, resulting in 38 arrests and 308 charges.

Further detail about the CMC’s overall performance will be released next month in the organisation’s 2010-11 annual report.

Last updated: 30 October 2012

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