Victoria's police chief says it's "utter garbage" to claim the state is unsafe as an African-Australian community task force is touted as the solution to its street gang menace.
Leaders from Melbourne's African community met with Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton on Wednesday to launch the task force after a series of high-profile crimes involving youths of African appearance.
"I felt there was a need to be more connected at a higher level on this," Mr Ashton said.
The issue first arose in 2012 when earliest reports of the Apex gang in southeast Melbourne emerged, but attracted national attention after a recent spate of riots, home invasions, armed robberies, assaults and attacks on police.
The latest plans hope to produce immediate improvements but "time would tell" whether the task force would be successful, Mr Ashton added.
"The proof will be in the pudding. It's a genuine attempt to try to improve the situation."
The commissioner said despite the high-profile nature of the crimes "only a few hundred" youths of African background had been involved in street gangs and he vehemently rejected claims the state is unsafe.
"I've heard people say that Victoria is not a safe place to live. That's complete and utter garbage," he said.
Prominent community leaders have backed the plan but stress the need to distinguish law-abiding citizens from a group of "young thugs", following death threats and racial vilification.
"We have a number of people obviously impacted and racially profiled in shopping centres, parks and this is not a good thing," South Sudanese leader and solicitor Kot Monoah said.
In one example at a sports stadium at Werribee in the western suburbs a coach was approached and told "if you touch my child we're gunna kill you", Mr Monoah told reporters.
Community members also stressed against labelling groups of criminal youths as gangs.
"We say as members of the African-Australian community the issues happening are not in any way shape or form related to gangs," Mr Monoah said.
Significant behavioural issues experienced by some young people in the African-Australian community had been compounded by drugs and alcohol, the former Sudanese refugee said.
This was backed by representative Richard Deng who said no one in the African-Australian community condoned criminal behaviour.
"Calling them an African gang is not helpful," Mr Deng said.
"We should be focusing on those majority of African-Australians who are doing a great job."
He added that most of those involved in recent crimes were born in Australia.
"The majority of these youths are born in Australia not Africa and some of them don't know where South Sudan or Kenya is."
The new task force will meet on Friday. It will support police by providing information on emerging issues, hot spots, improving communication on crime prevention and reporting racial vilification.
The federal government has accused the state Labor administration of failing to act on the issue, going as far as to say some people are refusing to go out at night for fear of gang violence.
But Acting Premier James Merlino on Tuesday promised to "throw the book" at young thugs involved in gang activity.