In the early 1980s, as a young detective I was attached to the Drug Squad at the old CIB. I remember executing a search warrant at Croydon, where we found nearly a pound of heroin. I know that now sounds very familiar; however, what set this heroin apart was that it was Beaker Valley Heroin, markedly different from any heroin I had seen. Number Four heroin from the golden triangle of South-East Asia is nearly always off-white, almost pure diamorphine. This heroin was almost brown.
But more remarkable were the occupants of the house. They were very recent arrivals from Lebanon, and from the moment we entered the premises, we wrestled and fought with the male occupants, were abused and spat at by the women and children, and our search took five times longer because of the impediments placed before us by the occupants, including the women hiding heroin in baby nappies and on themselves and refusing to be searched by policewomen because of religious beliefs. We had never encountered these problems before.The Rise of Middle Eastern Crime in Australia, Quadrant Magazine, by Tim Priest.
He goes on to describe how the Lebanese criminals came to rule the streets, not hindered by the police, or by politicians. The only streets they didn't rule were those ruled by Asian gangs, who, unlike the police, were willing to fight back.
Here's the worst example:
AN EXAMPLE of the confrontations police nearly always experienced in Muslim-dominated areas when confronting even the most minor of crimes is an incident that occurred in 2001 in Auburn. Two uniformed officers stopped a motor vehicle containing three well known male offenders of Middle Eastern origin, on credible information via the police radio that indicated that the occupants of the vehicle had been involved in a series of break-and-enters. What occurred during the next few hours can only be described as frightening.
When searching the vehicle and finding stolen property from the break-and-enter, the police were physically threatened by the three occupants of the car, including references to tracking down where the officers lived, killing them and “f—ing your girlfriends”. The two officers were intimidated to the point of retreating to their police car and calling for urgent assistance. When police back-up arrived, the three occupants called their associates via their mobile phones, which incidentally is the Middle Eastern radio network used to communicate amongst gangs. Within minutes as many as twenty associates arrived as well as another forty or so from the street where they had been stopped. As further police cars arrived, the Middle Eastern males became even more aggressive, throwing punches at police, pushing police over onto the ground, threatening them with violence and damaging police vehicles.
When the duty officer arrived, he immediately ordered all police back into their vehicles and they retreated from the scene. The stolen property was not recovered. No offender was arrested for assaulting police or damaging police vehicles.
But the humiliation did not end there. The group of Middle Eastern males then drove to the police station, where they intimidated the station staff, damaged property and virtually held a suburban police station hostage. The police were powerless. The duty officer ordered police not to confront the offenders but to call for back-up from nearby stations. Eventually the offenders left of their own volition. No action was taken against them.
In the minds of the local population, the police were cowards and the message was, Lebs rule the streets. For a number of days, nothing was done to rectify this total breakdown of law and order. To the senior police in the area, it was more important to give the impression that local ethnic relations were never better. It was also important to [former Commissioner Of Police] Peter Ryan that no bad news stories appeared that may have given the impression that crime in any area was out of control. Had these hoodlums been arrested they would have filed IA complaints immediately via their Legal Aid lawyers and community leaders. To senior police, this was a cause for concern at the next Op Crime Review.
So the incident was covered up until a few local veteran detectives found out about it and decided to act. They went quietly to the addresses of the three main offenders early one morning and took them away with a minimum of fuss and charged them. Some order was restored, but not nearly enough.
By avoiding confrontations with these thugs, the police gave away the streets in many of these areas in south-western Sydney.
So if you're wondering why the Australian surfers who were fighting with the Lebanese on the beaches didn't simply call the police to lay charges, it was because there was no one home in the police station, and hadn't been for years.
The thing for police to do in riots is arrest the rioters, which leads to fewer riots; most riots are started by people who are usually committing crimes on an individual basis, and only accelerate when the police run away.
But if you're wondering why people "take the law into their own hands," look at what happens when they leave it up to the "authorities."
[Linguistic note: When Priest refers in his speech to Beaker Valley Heroin, that's a transcription error; this is roughly how an Australian copper pronounces Bekaa Valley Heroin.]