Sports stores across Melbourne are running out of baseball bats as customers take fears of gang violence into their own hands.
The spike in sales, mentioned on 3AW radio’s ‘Rumour File’ segment on Wednesday, has seen Rebel Sports’ Highpoint, Watergardens, Dandenong and Frankston stores in Victoria almost sell out of bats for the sport.
Multiple store assistants said customers told them they were afraid of Melbourne’s Apex gang and were snapping up the bats for self-defence.
An employee at Rebel Sport Highpoint in the western suburb of Maribyrnong said they had sold 65 baseball bats in the past week – the same number they usually sell in an entire year.
The sales are thought to be linked to public fear of the growing Apex gang – said to have at least 100 members across Greater Melbourne.
Victoria Police urged members of the public not to take matters into their own hands.
Victoria Police held a press conference on personal and community safety on Wednesday afternoon.
Responding to the spike in baseball bat sales, they warned that “confronting offenders” could lead to “further harm”.
One Dandenong Rebel Sport employee said the majority of customers buying baseball bats were teenage girls, who said they were scared to go out at night.
The Apex gang is said to have taken its name from Apex Street in the south-eastern Melbourne suburb of Dandenong North.
Victoria Police set up ‘Taskforce Tense’ in November 2015 specifically to target the growing gang of mainly young African-Australian men living on Melbourne’s fringe.
Members of the gang have been arrested in relation to carjackings, car theft and violent aggravated burglaries.
Rebel Sport customers reported they were afraid of home invasions and were putting the bats under their bed.
Where once Apex members would knock on doors and push their way in once someone opened, now it’s said they are willing to simply kick doors down.
On Tuesday, 13 teenagers were arrested in relation to an Apex carjacking in Melbourne’s west.
When asked by The New Daily, Dandenong Police station denied any knowledge of the spike in bat sales, while police in Narre Warren – another epicentre of the Apex gang – declined to comment.
One Rebel employee told The New Daily that even the store’s staff had bought baseball bats in recent weeks, as stories of the ruthless gang circulated.
Why baseball bats?
Matt Huisman, sales manager at Queensland business Extac Australia, said baseball bats were an obvious choice for those looking to defend themselves.
Extac touts itself as a retailer of ‘tactical and survival gear’, but features a ‘self defence’ section that includes a number of baseball bats.
“In Australia you can’t really have anything to defend yourself with these days,” he told The New Daily.
“But a baseball bat is naturally designed for it.”
Mr Huisman said cricket bats didn’t swing as well as baseball bats, while hockey sticks had a tendency to get hooked on things.
He said it was a “safe assumption” that most of the people who bought baseball bats from his website weren’t using them to play baseball.
Currently, three of Extac’s five baseball bats are sold out.
An employee at Rebel Sport Watergardens in the north-western suburb of Taylors Lakes said it was clear people weren’t using them for sport.
“Not many people around here play baseball,” she said.