COVID, cops, crooks and Caped Crusaders: the case of 2021

“You can order your medications from the couch for contactless delivery. It can be delivered by courier, Uber, or Australia Post. Their systems are as efficient as Bunnings and Harvey Norman. Soon they will have drone deliveries, as we have already seen in prisons, ”said Commander Mick Frewen.

In general, crime has declined, but it will take years to judge the long-term impact, as police anticipate an increase in family violence and juvenile crime. There has been an increase in the use of heroin, a drug that causes stupor and helps the user to hide from reality. Home burglaries decreased in large part because we were all working from home and there weren’t many empty houses.

There have been heavy clashes between police and anti-lockdown protesters, with senior police officials criticized for not using specialist riot squads in Richmond, leaving General Service officers to fend for themselves.

Members of the Victoria Police force block Bridge Road in Richmond on September 18.Credit:Getty Images

Then, within weeks, they deployed riot gear, including hard foam and capsicum shells, to shoot the crowds, creating a new wave of criticism.

Still, there have been times when the police have reminded us of what we expect from law enforcement, nothing more than the unexpected rescue of four-year-old Cleo Smith, who went missing for 18 days after being taken from her family’s tent. at Quobba Blowholes in remote Washington State.

Only her family and investigators would have thought there was even the slightest chance that she would be found alive, much less apparently unharmed.

In Melbourne, police found two children alive and more than 12 hours after their abduction from their Blackburn home. The pressure on investigators was intense and their relief when they found them palpable.

Of all of Victoria’s mysteries, none was greater than the disappearance of campers Carol Clay and Russell Hill, last seen at their Wonnangatta campsite on March 20 of last year.

There have been several searches and several information calls that seemingly go nowhere.

And then, at the end of October, the Missing Persons Unit launched a clearly targeted media campaign, claiming that they were confident they knew what had happened to the couple and that they wanted to track down the owner of a blue Nissan Patrol who had was filmed in CCTV in the region. the day after the couple disappeared.


It’s a technique known as a “frog in the pan,” where the heat is slowly increased on a suspect until he or she becomes too hot to handle.

On November 22, Special Operations Group police arrested pilot Greg Lynn at his isolated campsite in Arbuckle Junction. His Nissan Patrol (now painted beige) was seized by police and after three days of questioning he was charged with the Clay and Hill murders.

A subsequent targeted search in the historic Grant area – about an hour from the burnt down Hill and Clay campsite – found bone shards identified as human. Tests are continuing to determine if they are from the missing campers.

In another missing persons case, police found Ju Zhang’s remains at Wollert’s landfill nearly six months after his disappearance from his Epping home. Her boyfriend, Joon Seong Tan, has been charged with her murder.

During COVID, we had to learn new work practices, including working from home – a concept of organized crime adopted years ago.

Crime bosses no longer live in marble-encrusted “castles of grass”, penthouses overlooking the ocean, or heavily fortified bicycle headquarters.

Many now live offshore in prime properties in South America, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The perfect home for the mobile gangster is a place with a view, a good internet connection (for posting half-naked selfies to show off their steroid-sculpted physique), a thriving nightlife and preferably no extradition treaty with the ‘Australia.

The three-year international police undercover operation using the crypto app An0m not only provided evidence of multiple arrests, but also exposed the methodology of modern crooks.

In total, police collected 27 million encrypted messages on the app from 12,000 phones used by 300 criminal syndicates in 100 countries.

The phones were leased at $ 1,700 per six months, creating a revenue stream of $ 40 million. Organizers even set up a help desk, so if there was a problem it would be resolved and if the police seized a phone it could be wiped remotely.


The intelligence flow from the device showed that organized crime embraces multiculturalism. Asian criminal gangs worked with the Mafia while motorcycle gangs that sometimes went to war also shared drug import channels and sources of narcotics.

Offshore crooks could order union subordinates to carry out murders in Melbourne, with police foiling a coup that was to be carried out at a local boxing night.

A local investigation showed the level of specialization when police broke a $ 60 million money laundering ring that used the bank details of around 250 Chinese students to run money through ATMs from Melbourne, making it available all over the world.

Senior police officials recognize that new technology has changed the police forever. A few decades ago, crooks tended to stick around. The prodigious drug trafficker and resident psychopath Dennis Bruce Allen owned several properties in Richmond, drank at the local pub, killed people in his living room, and chopped them up in his garage. He saved a fortune in gasoline.

Now the gangsters don’t care about state or national borders. A Melbourne gangster can deal directly with a Chinese chemical company to arrange the importation with a simple flick of a computer mouse.

Law enforcement agencies that worked in isolation eventually had to accept that if they didn’t work together, they would fail. Police cannot afford to be territorial while crooks cannot.

We can talk about trends, but life is about people, and we lost a special one earlier this year – a man who cheated on death more than once.

In November 1984, marksman Kai Korhonen, armed with a powerful assault rifle and 200 rounds, shot and killed security guard Peter Poole and, in the subsequent search, opened fire on Sergeant Ron Fenton and his partner, Chief Agent Paul Gilbert.

When Fenton jumped out of his car he was shot in the head. The injuries were serious but unexpectedly he survived, with 30 shrapnel in his head. He fought to return to full operational service only to be brought down by the mental demons of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Ron Fenton with Yogi.

Ron Fenton with Yogi.Credit:Joe armao

Depressed, suicidal, and trapped by night terrors, he eventually received a companion dog, Yogi – an American Labrador retriever trained by an inmate at Bathurst Prison.

It saved his life.

Ron has embarked on a long legal battle to have Yogi’s expenses recognized as a responsibility of WorkCover. He won.

“The yogi is now considered a legitimate medical expense. I know of five cases of first responders with assistance dogs who can now claim, ”he said. “Everyone wants to leave their mark in life and getting Yogi’s law passed is one of my greatest accomplishments. “

Suffering from terminal cancer earlier this year, Ron was told he would be awarded the Order of Australia for his mental health services.

He died in April ahead of the announcement of the Queen’s birthday honors.

When the COVID-delayed nomination was finally carried out at Government House, being dead wasn’t going to stop Ron from attending; her family and friends made sure her ballot box was at the presentation.

Ron would have loved that.

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