‘It’s a bad, bad thing’: Bikie-busting cop’s new war
THE no-nonsense cop who dismantled one of Sydney's most violent street gangs and cut his teeth investigating the state's worst bikie massacre is vowing to bring down the ice scourge "destroying families and communities" in our country towns.
The Daily Telegraph can today reveal former Middle Eastern Organised Crime Squad commander Detective Superintendent Peter "Silver" McErlain is now at the helm of a team of more than 100 officers who will concentrate on fighting the ice epidemic in rural areas.
The newly merged NSW Police Drug and Firearms unit now includes a "mix" of officers with backgrounds such as chemistry and the law.
While in charge of MEOCS, the 60-year-old helped to bring down the notorious Brothers For Life gang.
Now he has the incredibly addictive, deadly and cheap drug ice in his sights.
"Ice is absolutely killing us in the rural areas," Supt McErlain told The Daily Telegraph.
"It's one of the biggest issues in terms of violence, in terms of the gun crime that's associated with it, and in terms of destroying whole communities and kids' lives. It's a bad, bad thing."
His plan is to send his crack teams bush, especially in the state's west, to investigate with local officers, who are often strapped for time and resources. "What I want to do is try to get as many resources and expertise as we can to the rural side of things - ice is one of the major challenges we face," he said.
Ice is absolutely killing us in the rural areas - Superintendent Peter McErlain
Going bush also makes sense for officers in his squad trained in the use of firearms. "Those firearms thefts out of rural properties - nine times out of 10 they fall into the hand of crooks, so that's a worry in itself," he said. "We intend to increase our presence there."
State Crime Commander Assistant Commissioner Mal Lanyon said the squad's main focus is eliminating the importation and supply of illicit commodities.
"Organised crime is about profit; which is essentially derived from illegal drug and gun sales - they go hand-in-hand in that world - so it makes sense for police to target them together".
Supt McErlain, a volunteer lifesaver and Wests Tigers tragic joined the police force in the late 1970s.
As a detective, he worked on the 1984 Milperra Massacre in which seven people were killed when tensions between the Comanchero and Bandidos bikie clubs reached boiling point.
Supt McErlain has also been the commander at Kings Cross, Maroubra, St George and Liverpool commands.
While ice was the biggest issue for country towns, Supt McErlain said his squad would also zero in on cannabis. He has spent the past week with hi team ripping out hundreds of plants from hippie communes and properties across the Northern Rivers region.
He said targeting cannabis was still a priority because it "fuelled organised crime" and "What comes with organised crime? Violence and death."
The new squad will also ensure every investigation on the books will now have the attention of detectives with backgrounds in both firearms and drugs.
"Where there are drugs there are firearms so it's a real good mix," he said. "We've got chemists, lawyers, all sorts of disciplines and they are outstanding cops."