Police have disrupted a significant organised criminal group operating in the state’s north.
In September 2021, detectives from Richmond and Tweed/Byron Police Districts – with the assistance of the State Crime Command’s Robbery and Serious Crime Squad and Raptor Squad – formed Strike Force Bench to investigate several violent crimes occurring within Northern NSW, including serious assaults, drug supply and possession, firearm supply and use, armed robbery and vehicle theft.
Following extensive investigations, several ongoing cases from both the Richmond and Tweed/Byron Police Districts merged under the same strike force banner to investigate the criminal group ‘Loyal Crims’ or ‘LC’.
During the course of the joint investigation, five people have been arrested and charged with matters currently before the courts. These include:
- A 47-year-old man was convicted after he pursued two men in a vehicle southbound on the M1 Motorway at Ewingsdale, near Byron Bay, in August 2021 before threatening the other driver with an axe and ramming his car several times. The South Grafton man pled guilty to predatory driving, and being armed with intent to commit indictable offence among other offences; he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 10 months.
- Two men – aged 29 and 31 – and a 27-year-old woman were charged following a home invasion in Byron Bay in August 2021. It’s alleged the two men attended a Butler Road home where they detained and assaulted a 37-year-old man, before stealing several bank cards and property. The woman was also present at the home, with police alleging she had coordinated the offence prior. All three are currently bail refused to reappear at Tweed Heads Local Court on Friday 18 February 2022.
- A 24-year-old man was arrested at a service station in West Ballina in October 2021, where police located and seized cash and ammunition from his vehicle. Detectives later seized knuckle dusters, mobile phones and other property during a search warrant at his East Ballina home. He has been charged with acquire firearm without licence, deal with property proceeds of crime, possess ammunition without holding licence and two counts of possess prohibited weapon. He remains bail refused, next due to appear at Ballina Local Court on Tuesday 14 December 2021.
Detectives will allege these persons were all members or associates of the ‘Loyal Crims’ organised criminal group.
Following extensive further inquiries, strike force officers – with the assistance of the Tactical Operations Unit, Raptor Squad, Robbery and Serious Crimes Squad and the Police Dog Squad – executed four search warrants at homes in Goonellabah, Pimlico, Cumbalum and Ballina from 7am today (Thursday 2 December 2021).
During these warrants, police located and seized weapons, methylamphetamine, mobile phones and property believed to be stolen.
As a result, three men – aged between 35 and 50 – and a 29-year-old woman were arrested and taken to respective police stations.
A 35-year-old man was arrested on Crown Street, Lismore, and has been charged with robbery in company, aggravated robbery in company, damage property by fire, possess prohibited drug, supply prohibited drug on an ongoing basis, stalk/intimidate intend fear physical harm, use offensive weapon with intent to commit indictable offence and participate in criminal group.
A second 35-year-old man was arrested at a Goonellabah address. He has been charged with robbery in company, aggravated robbery in company, damage property by fire, participate in criminal group, supply prohibited drug and possess prohibited drug.
A 29-year-old woman was also arrested at a Goonellabah address. She’s been charged with robbery in company, aggravated robbery in company, damage property by fire, participate in criminal group, supply prohibited drug and possess prohibited drug.
Police will allege all three are either members or associates of the ‘Loyal Crims’, and were involved in an alleged carjacking, assault and car fire in West Ballina on Saturday 30 October 2021.
While a 50-year-old man was arrested at a Ballina address. He remains at Ballina Police Station and is expected to be charged later today.
All four will be refused bail to appear at Lismore Local Court tomorrow (Friday 3 December 2021).
Richmond Police District Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Grant Erickson, says this large-scale investigation has been greatly assisted by the multi-unit cooperation within the NSW Police Force.
“Our specialist investigators from both the Richmond and Tweed/Byron Police Districts have worked alongside our highly-skilled colleagues at the State Crime Command to observe patterns and connections between crimes and eventually flesh out a criminal network operating here on the Far North Coast.
“We will allege in court this network was operating across Northern NSW and committing serious offences which put the public in danger.
“Our investigations don’t stop here – Strike Force Bench will continue with further arrests anticipated,” Det Insp Erickson said.
As part of ongoing inquiries, strike force detectives are also investigating a public place shooting in Mooball on Thursday 23 September 2021.
Just after 4.15am (Thursday 23 September 2021), police were called to Tweed Valley Way at Mooball following reports the driver of a small sedan discharged a firearm in the direction of a truck, before leaving the area.
Strike force detectives have released CCTV footage of a vehicle they wish to locate as part of their inquiries.
The Holden Astra has different coloured panels on the passenger side. Anyone who may have seen this vehicle is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
Anyone with information about Strike Force Bench is urged to contact Crime Stoppers: 1800 333 000 or https://nsw.crimestoppers.com.au. Information is treated in strict confidence. The public is reminded not to report information via NSW Police social media pages.