Melbourne's African leaders call for calm as Peter Dutton's gangs comment provokes backlash

Melbourne's African leaders call for calm as Peter Dutton's gangs comment provokes backlash

Melbourne's African leaders call for calm as Peter Dutton's gangs comment provokes backlash

Updated 4 January 2018, 11:40 AEDT

African-Australian community leaders meet in Melbourne and call on their young people to stand up to criminals, as social media mocks a minister's claim that Melburnians are too frightened to go out for dinner.

African-Australian leaders in Melbourne have called on their young people to stand up to rogue criminal elements of their community, after meeting in Melbourne to respond to growing concerns about street gangs.

The issue has been making headlines after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull accused Premier Daniel Andrews of failing to deal with "growing gang violence and lawlessness" earlier this week.

Yesterday, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton took the attack further, saying Melburnians were frightened of dining out at night because of gang crime.

"The reality is people [in Melbourne] are scared to go out at restaurants of a night time because they're followed home by these gangs, home invasions, and cars are stolen," Mr Dutton told Sydney radio.

A spokeswoman for the community group that met last night, Eva Sarr, said the factors behind youth crime in African-Australian communities were complex and "need to be addressed as such".

"We should not be distracted by name-calling, political point-scoring or media sensationalism in trying to sell stories," Ms Sarr said.

"We especially call on the majority of our young people, who are law-abiding individuals with dreams and aspirations for success, to become more active and to take steps to help prevent antisocial behaviour by their peers.

"We finally ask the media to demonstrate more responsible reporting on these difficult issues and balance their reporting with the many positive stories that are happening within the African-Australian community."

Police also took part in the meeting.

Data from Victoria's Crime Statistics Agency shows an overrepresentation of Sudanese and Kenyan-born offenders in some crime categories.

Sudanese-born offenders allegedly involved in aggravated burglaries in Victoria increased from 20 in 2014-15 to 98 two years later.

However, the statistics also show that a Victorian is more than 25 times more likely to be seriously assaulted by someone born in Australia or New Zealand than someone born in Sudan or Kenya.

Meanwhile, Police Minister Lisa Neville said Mr Dutton's restaurant comment had taken the debate "to a whole new low".

The comment was ridiculed on social media by users who posted photos of restaurant meals with the hashtag #MelbourneBitesBack, which was trending on Twitter last night.