Strike Force Raptor warn NRL of Pacific Island gang threat
ELITE tactical police have warned the National Rugby League that a deadly grudge between warring Pacific Islander gangs is set to erupt in the stands in 2020 if players do not stop mimicking "gang signs" on the field.
The warning from Strike Force Raptor emerged at a meeting with Islander community leaders who were called to NSW Police headquarters in Parramatta this week and told their young men were locked in suburban warfare fuelled by rival rap music groups OneFour and 21 District.
Raptor Sergeant Nathan Trueman said gang members were aligning themselves to NRL clubs whose high-profile players unwittingly risked inflaming violent tensions by displaying hand symbols appearing to be reciprocating support.
"(At) some stage this year, Penrith where he's throwing up the OneFour signs, are going to play Manly who are throwing up the 21 signs. Now while there won't be a conflict on the field about the gangs, you're sure as hell there's going to be one in the stands," Sgt Trueman told the meeting attended by an NRL representative and observed by The Saturday Telegraph.
"There's going to be a massive issue in the stands. Unlike Wanderers (A-League) games we don't get (searches with security wands) on the way into rugby league games and these kids are carrying knives.
"We think this is one of the issues the NRL are going to face (is) not just drink driving, not just violence against women but gang culture," Sgt Trueman said. "You see it in the NFL with the Bloods and Crips representing."
Some NRL stars are overt in their support of the two rap groups - a social media video of Sydney Roosters player Sitili Tupouniua in which he sings along to a 21 District song was played by police at the meeting on Tuesday. Manly Sea Eagles forward Martin Taupau has appeared on social media wearing a 21 District jumper.
There is no suggestion either of the players are gang members or supported criminal behaviour.
"Since we reached out to the NRL this hasn't stopped," Sgt Trueman said.
OneFour, which started in Mount Druitt, claims to represent greater western Sydney while 21 District stakes a claim to a swath of the city from the inner west to Manly.
Police said the conflict began as bad blood between two 16-year-old boys and festered as friends and associates bought into the fight.
The murder of 20-year-old Tino Henry in Parramatta in October 2018 put a flame under the tensions, especially when OneFour appeared to gloat about his death in their song The Message.
"I've got friends, looking at 10 (years), you watched yours getting put in a box," the song goes. "21 what? but one got knocked, ha, I guess that makes them 20."
Sgt Trueman said the teenager now facing up to 25 years jail for Henry's death had not heard from his friends while in juvenile detention. "Not once have his boys visited him, not once has he had a phone call … they're out making money, making music, rapping about the thing he did, claiming it as their own while he is sitting in a jail cell, thinking about it every day," he said.
"We have spoken to gang members from the 21 side who say 'hey there was a bit of beef there but it wasn't until this happened (the song) that it enraged us'. They said 'we can't just stand here while they take pot shots about stabbing our mate and killing him and laughing about it' … that's when the war kicked off."
Three members of OneFour were jailed this week over an unrelated pub brawl.
Sgt Trueman said violence dividing the Pacific Islander community was not between nationalities but suburbs.
"This conflict is over area, it's about where you live and where you are from. It's not Samoan vs. Tonga."
Smaller gangs are also forming at suburban level, even with their own rap groups, but pledging allegiance to 21 District or OneFour like the 66 gang representing Cabramatta who intend to bring out their own music.
Another gang based in Wetherill Park have targeted youths at the local mall.
At Claymore a group recently rioted with police while filming a rap video. A gang called The Wood represents Riverwood while the 67 group has formed in Doonside.
Similar "drill rap" groups in London are being policed using crime prevention orders, now available to NSW Police, that give officers powers to see lyrics and performance schedules. It is not the first time the NRL has had to face the issue of gang culture.
In 2016 then Parramatta Eels player Junior Paulo and than Penrith Panthers player James Segeyaro were warned by police for allegedly consorting with convicted criminals.
Player Corey Norman was also warned by the Organised Crime Squad after a dinner with a group including a former bikie.
An NRL spokeswoman said: "The NRL has been actively involved in working with the police and the clubs on the issue of player association with criminal gangs. We have made the risks of such associations very clear to clubs and players and we will continue to reinforce this message … next season."
BEHIND GANG'S BAD BLOOD
Started in Mount Druitt & claims to represent greater western Sydney.
Also known as the Inner West gang. Stakes a claim to a stretch from the inner western suburbs to Manly.
Police say it began as bad blood between two 16-year-old boys and spread to include their associates. The murder of 20-year-old Tino Henry in Parramatta in October 2018 put a flame under the tensions, especially when OneFour appeared to gloat about his death in a song.
BIKIE BUSTERS SET SIGHTS ON NEW TARGETS
Strike Force Raptor - the police squad which famously cut bikie violence in NSW - is now targeting Pacific Islander gangs who worship rap singers.
Raptor officers burst into the Mount Druitt home of Taniella Pasikala, an alleged associate of the Greater West gang who follow the OneFour rap group, on Tuesday.
Four children in the home rushed to comfort each other as six armed and fully-covered officers flung Pasikala to the ground.
A search of the property allegedly revealed three different types of steroids, cash and a safe.
Pasikala, who was on bail for assault and intimidation offences, was arrested, taken to Mount Druitt police station and charged with possess prohibited drug.
He was given bail and the possession charge was adjourned to December 12.
Police have become so concerned with Sydney's Pacific Islander gangs, some Raptor officers were recently directed to put the squeeze on them.
Sergeant Nathan Trueman told a gathering of Islander community leaders one young man had already been killed and scores of others bashed or stabbed.
"If we don't make a stand tonight the next time we may see each other is at a young bloke's funeral and that's seriously where we think this is headed," Sgt Trueman said.