STRIKE Force Raptor, the state’s elite anti-bikie unit, will set up a permanent base in the Hunter, NSW Police have confirmed.
The unit has been operating in the Hunter for several months due to simmering tensions between bikie gangs in the region, particularly the Finks and Nomads.
On Sunday police announced the arrangement would be formalised, creating Raptor North as a Hunter-based branch and Raptor South to cover the Illawarra.
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Each region will have a team of 23 investigators, highway patrol officers and intelligence staff to take on organised crime in their patch.
They will also have access to the resources of organisations including the Australian Taxation Office, Austrac, NSW Crime Commission and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said the regional Raptors would offer greater resources to the state beyond Sydney.
“Operational opportunities were identified in regional NSW, particularly in the Hunter and Illawarra, and while we have successfully targeted numerous criminal groups using a variety of tactics, there’s more to be done and we are doing it,” Commissioner Fuller said.
“The community can take comfort in the fact that Strike Force Raptor have been fearless and relentless in pursuing criminal groups and will continue in the months and years ahead.”
Police Minister Troy Grand said the regional wings could help “disrupting and dismantling” gangs based outside the state capital.
“When illegal bikie gangs set up shop, drug distribution increases, violence between rival gangs ensues and law-abiding citizens are put at risk,” he said.
“We know numerous motorcycle gangs including the Finks, Nomads and Bandidos have bases in the Hunter and Illawarra regions, so I’m extremely pleased that police have installed these specialist units to proactively target these groups and hit them where it hurts.”
The teams’ roles and resources will be reviewed after six months.
State Crime Commander, Acting Assistant Commissioner Stuart Smith, said Strike Force Raptor had proven its worth since it began in 2009.
“[It] has made more than 4000 arrests across the state and laid almost 10,000 charges for a variety of offences, ranging from the most serious and violent through to traffic and consorting,” Acting Assistant Commissioner Smith said.
“Officers have executed more than 700 search warrants and seized some 1400 firearms, 300 knives/swords, and another 450 dangerous weapons.
“Importantly, we have seized tens of millions in cash, drugs, and other proceeds of crime, which hits these groups where is hurts most – profit.
Anyone with information, including relevant photos and videos, that may assist Strike Force Raptor can report it directly to investigators via the Strike Force Raptor online reporting page: https://www1.police.nsw.gov.au/Default.aspx?id=49 or call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.