NSW police get sweeping powers to search

Taskforce Erebus
Police in NSW can now search the homes of convicted drug dealers without a warrant. -PR Handout Image

A high-ranking member of the Comancheros motorcycle gang and six others have been arrested by a NSW police taskforce targeting organised crime, amid a spate of underworld shootings in Sydney.

NSW Police have been given new powers to search convicted drug offenders without warrants as part of the crackdown on the bloody turf wars between rival criminal gangs.

Police say Blake Gennison is the sergeant-at-arms of the motorcycle gang's South Coast chapter.

He was refused bail when he appeared in Nowra Local Court on Tuesday to face several drug supply and proceeds of crime charges, as well as participating in and directing a criminal group.

Police also arrested five other men and a woman on Tuesday morning, seizing two kilograms of MDMA, a kilogram of cocaine, a shotgun and a Glock pistol.

Police will allege a 31-year-old man arrested at Schofields on Tuesday is a Bandidos bikie responsible for the shooting of a Rebels member at Londonderry in Sydney's west last Tuesday night.

That shooting took place the same night Comancheros bikie Tarek Zahed was shot and his brother Omar killed in the foyer of an Auburn gym.

Taskforce Erebus was established on Monday to examine the circumstances and links between recent fatal shootings and various other criminal activities.

Under pressure to curb the escalating violence in Sydney's west, the government on Tuesday announced a pilot of Drug Supply Prohibition Orders.

Police will be able to apply to a court for a DSPO against a person convicted of serious drug offence in the last decade, allowing police to search them repeatedly without applying for separate warrants each time.

"These are people that we don't want walking around our streets," Police Minister Paul Toole said on Tuesday.

"This is giving our police more powers, the ability to be able to search convicted drug criminals, whether it is at their homes, whether it is down the street, whether it is on their planes or on their boats."

It is similar to Serious Crime Prevention Orders and Firearm Prohibition Orders that already operate in NSW.

The DSPO scheme is being trialled in four areas: Bankstown in southwest Sydney, the Orana Command in the mid-west, the Hunter Valley, and the Coffs Harbour and Clarence Police Districts in the north.

The Law Society of NSW criticised the new powers, saying they were unnecessary and would achieve little.

"There's no question that high-level drug dealers should be put out of business, however strong powers exist already for the NSW Police and the courts to do just that," society president Joanne van der Plaat said.

There was too much secrecy and not enough scrutiny of police applications, and insufficient oversight to ensure the scheme operates fairly, she added.

Police have applied for four orders already, though two were initially rejected by the overseeing commissioner.

"We are working with the oversight commissioner to ensure those briefs and evidence are strong enough for those orders to be issued," Assistant Commissioner Mick Fitzgerald said.

"The threshold is very high ... these are people who are convicted of supplying prohibited drugs that are actively involved in the community supplying drugs."

Thirteen people have been shot dead in underworld gang wars in the last 18 months.

Labor supports the introduction of DSPOs but questioned why it took so long for a pilot of the scheme to begin after parliament passed laws in November 2020.

Mr Toole said he had been working to enact the changes since becoming police minister in December but the legislation was complex.

Attorney-General Mark Speakman told parliamentary question time the delay in implementing the pilot scheme was because police and magistrates needed to be trained.

The Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research will monitor the two-year pilot of DSPOs to assess whether they have an impact on reducing drug related crime, Mr Speakman said.