At present the police are powerless to disperse gangs of known criminals … who consort together to plot fresh crimes.

The Sun (Sydney), 20 September 1929

The lure of easy money from the illicit alcohol, drug and gambling trades encouraged the formation of new crime gangs. Fierce rivalry between the groups triggered violent battles on the streets. Although Sydney gangsters had access to guns, many preferred cutthroat razors — inner-city vice hub Darlinghurst was nicknamed ‘Razorhurst’ by the press following a spate of razor attacks. Gangs from other cities, particularly Melbourne, attempted to break into the Sydney scene but were strongly repulsed by gangsters and police alike. International crime groups were also drawn to Sydney, such as the Mafia-style crime syndicate known as the ‘Camorra’.

Giovanni Lucci, Albert Borri & Gioele Martini

circa 1926, Suspected of attempted safebreaking

A spate of safe breaks in 1926 had police worried. Using a new technique, the thieves had skilfully opened safes that had been deemed uncrackable. However, at one crime scene they left behind a small clue: a piece of cloth used to wipe their fingerprints from the safe was proven to have been sold only in Italy. This led police to Giovanni Lucci and his gang of Italian safebreakers, of which Borri and Martini were members. The men were caught attempting to open a bank vault, the most difficult safe to crack, using tools they had manufactured specially for the job. Lucci, Borri and Martini served prison time before being deported. In the file that New South Wales Police kept on the Camorra, Lucci is noted as someone to keep an eye on during his journey back to Italy.

Thomas Maria, Patrick Bevin (alias Robert Barron, William Bates, William Bevin, Patrick Brosnahan, Owen Patrick Brosnan, Patrick ‘Paddy’ Brosnan, Henry Jones, Arthur Wyatt) & Patrick Dangar

& Elsie Hall, Dulcie Morgan & Jean Taylor

circa September 1920, suspected of being in a place frequented by people with no visible means of support; suspected of being a keeper of a place frequented by people with no visible means of support (Taylor)

On 9 September 1920, police raided an inner-city apartment following complaints from neighbours about raucous behaviour. Police identified several members of Melbourne gang the Vendetta Push among the revellers. The gang escaped out of a window, but these six local men and women were arrested and photographed.

Dual mugshot in black and white; man seated and then man standing, with white naval cap on.

A dubious defence

On 19 October 1921 Herbert Burridge was listed in the New South Wales Police Gazette as a deserter from HMAS Cerberus

Archives behind the scenes - gaol photos

In this episode we show you the very popular Gaol Photo Description Books. The photos (or mugshots) of prisoners are from gaols right across NSW and date from 1870-1930