'Lock your doors': What happened to idyllic suburb?
AS police helicopters flew overhead and heavily armed riot cops desperately tried to disperse at least 100 rampaging youths on Wednesday, terrified residents were told to "lock their doors".
It was a far cry from what the people of Taylors Hill - a masterplanned suburb on former pastoral land in Melbourne's northwest - are used to and certainly not what they were promised when the community was in development 15 years ago.
Planners back then ensured the suburb, just 35 minutes from the centre of Melbourne and now home to more than 15,000 people, would be a desirable and affordable place for citydwellers to live.
It was to be a spacious environment for families with large housing blocks, parks, walking tracks, playgrounds and lakes.
In 2003, when it was still being built, the suburb's planners boasted of a "masterplanned estate" with "contemporary streetscapes with special street lighting and underground services".
The plans showed eight parks for activities, allowing all families to be within 400m of the nearest park.
"Each of the parks include playgrounds, barbecues, a 400m jogging track, soccer and AFL goalposts and even a half-sized basketball court," they added.
It meant residents could achieve the dream of a three-bedroom house on a 500sq m block within commutable distance from Melbourne.
And, it worked. Thousands of residents quickly piled into the new suburb along with the newly developed Caroline Springs and Burnside, and many were pleased with their life choices.
"You can't beat the joint," chuffed local resident Kemal Durmish told Fairfax in 2007. "We don't have to travel and we come to the lake, the kids can put their remote-control boat in the water and we just kick back and relax."
The planned community 22km west of Melbourne's CBD turned sleepy Melton Shire into a vibrant growth hub incredibly popular with young families - particularly those from immigrant backgrounds.
The latest census data showed residents of Maltese, Italian, Macedonian, Vietnamese and Indian heritage were far higher than the national and state average.
But those who flocked there are starting to become concerned after a spate of shocking violent incidents - the most dramatic of which brought Taylors Hill to national attention on Wednesday night.
Residents were told to "stay inside and lock the doors" while police tried to disperse more than 100 youths - who launched rocks at officers, smashing up a cop car and a bus stop.
In January, when two teenagers were attacked and two homes were broken into during a four-hour rampage in Melbourne's western suburbs.
In one incident, a 17-year-old was ambushed and hit with what appeared to be a baseball bat after refusing a demand for his belongings. The terrified teenager was then dragged along the ground before the offenders fled in a car.
A perceived increase in crime has concerned some long-term residents, who say they are packing up and heading for different parts of the city.
"After living for seven years at Taylors Hill, all I can say is it is fantastic place for young couples or singles, but it's not a place where you would like to bring your kids up," wrote one on real estate website Homely.
"Nice and cheap houses on big block of land is the only attraction here. The quality of education in schools is very poor and security here is another big concern for me.
"With a five year old now, I have decided to move to Eastern Suburbs (McKinnon)."
Residents of Melbourne's western suburbs including Werribee, Tarneit and Caroline Springs have also spoken about feeling increasingly unsafe after a series of violent incidents in the past eight months - prompting them to set up community foot patrols.
Security is a huge concern for residents in Taylors Hill, particularly because it boasts a huge number of families with young children.
Census data shows nine out of 10 households in the suburb are made up of families, with the most common family type being a married couple with, on average, 2.1 children.
The data also shows 65 per cent of households live in homes with four bedrooms or more.
Taylors Hill mother Rocchina Pignataro said she had become concerned about large gatherings of youths on her street.
She said they often just played basketball, listened to music and cooked food on the public barbecues, but the groups sometimes turned rowdy.
"It's such a nice area here but the last few years the kids have become really bad," she told The Australian.
Despite concerns, official crime statistics reveal there were just three aggravated burglaries recorded for Taylors Hill in the year ending in March. The most common crimes were against property - car thefts, thefts from cars, residential burglaries and criminal damage.
However, Wednesday's incident has grabbed headlines around the country and there is growing anger over the police response to the unrest.
The frustration grew as Commander Tim Hansen told reporters no arrests had been made in relation to the chaotic scenes.
Mr Hansen said police had "short-term objectives" to keep residents safe and the rest would be taken care of later.
"We were really successful at that," he said. "We launched an investigation overnight. I just want to reassure everyone we take a zero tolerance (approach) with this sort of behaviour.
"You'll certainly see some movement in the investigation and arrest space in coming days."