by Christian Edwards
SYDNEY, Sept. 23 (Xinhua) -- Sydney's simmering war with gun- crime and gangland warfare hit a boiling point on Monday after Australian police launched a synchronized operation across the city targeting the new kind of organized violence.
Police seized drugs, weapons and cash, arresting 13 men after executing a number of search warrants in Sydney's southwest, on the back of an 18-month joint investigation by local police and the NSW Crime Commission.
NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione, told reporters that the arrests would seriously disrupt the operations of a core organized gang.
"We will allege in court that the men arrested today are members or associates of DLAST HR," Commissioner Scipione said.
According to police, the "DLAST HR" is a "violent, organized gang that has been involved in public-place shootings, vicious assaults, drug dealing and extortion."
"The hard work .. has paid off, and we are confident today's arrests will seriously disrupt the business dealings of this particular syndicate," the commissioner said.
Gun crime has become an all too familiar statistic on the evening news.
Shooting deaths, such as the casual drive-by shootings of two young men on a suburban street on a quiet Monday in July, have brought the total number of shootings in Sydney this year to 72.
Fourteen of those peaked in July and no one has been able to identify the determining causes.
So while some commentators are calling it a bikie war; others have sought to understand the cultural change in the Sydney crime scene, one that appears to have unleashed a new breed of gang and a new kind of gangster.
Police Commissioner Scipione has been on the front-lines of a battle that has raged in Sydney's troubled west for consecutive years. But he denies the storm is rising.
"If there is a war raging, it is half what it was a year ago," he told Xinhua.
Scipione believes a change in culture has oxygenated Sydney's violent under-current.
"A lot of these young men are living the lives of wannabe gangsters and when you live the life of a wannabe gangster, unfortunately the reality is sometimes you will lose your life."
Notoriety, power, drugs, racial rivalries all are meat for the grinder that feeds the nation's startling 265 percent rise in the number of handgun thefts.
However, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics show that despite the recent spate of shootings, gun crime was more prevalent in the late 1990s.
In 1997 there were 1,252 robberies with firearms in the state, and 231 assaults with firearms.
But what has changed, according to Commissioner Scipione, is the flagrant disregard for community.
In 2012, 711 firearms were stolen in the state of New South Wales. But the local police reckon its not stolen guns but illegal gun imports and the gangs that distribute them that pose the largestbthreat.
Certainly more must be done to contain the widely reported corruption with Australia's vaunted Customs and Border security.
Former Minister Jason Clare told Xinhua earlier this year that the state was in desperate need of enhanced gun seizure laws.
"We need to give police more power to go in and seize the guns, " he said.
Monday morning, following leads that were developed from april last year, dozens of specialist police joined investigators in executing a search warrant at a semi-rural property in Rossmore. A total of 22 search warrants were executed across Sydney's southwest at properties in Fairfield, Bonnyrigg, Horningsea Park, Hinchinbrook, Hoxton Park, Campbelltown, Wetherill Park, Liverpool, Warwick Farm, Cartwright, Smithfield, Greenfield Park, Bossley Park, Canley Vale and Rossmore.
In a mutli-pronged assault, police also searched car dealerships and a real estate agency. The 13 arrests take the total number of people arrested by Strike Force Evesson to 33. Assistant Commissioner Frank Mennilli, commander of the South West Metro Region, said officers would continue their investigation.
"We want to put this whole syndicate out of business," Mennilli said. "As well as allegedly being involved in drug supply, extortion and a number of assaults, we believe the DLAST HR has been involved in more than a dozen public place shootings in Sydney over the last two years."
New South Wales Police urged those in the know to break the code of silence.
"If you want to stop your loved ones, your friends, your family falling at the end of a gun, then make the call to police, and make that call as quickly as you can," police said.
"Nevertheless, our work is not yet done and we need the assistance of the local community to help us continue investigations into the rest of the gang."