A lifestyle hard to break when crime runs in the family

( dpa ) - Melbourne hoodlum Jason Moran's 6-year-old twins witnessed his death. They were among five children in the back of his van waiting for a Saturday morning football practice when a lone gunman despatched their dad.

The menfolk in the Moran crime family - Jason, brother Mark and father Lewis - all died by the gun.

Lachlan McCulloch is a former Melbourne detective who has chronicled a gangland turf war that in the past decade has cost at least 25 lives. He notes that Lewis Moran would have lived longer had he not been able to afford bail while waiting to answer drug trafficking charges.

"He was worth millions and one of the biggest criminals in the country," said McCulloch, adding, "The Morans are now completely wiped out."

There are millions to be made in the party drug business and serious crime is often a family affair.

Mark "Chopper" Read, a former criminal who inspired the film Chopper that launched the career of Hollywood actor Eric Bana, said bloodlines flow a long way.

"It goes back to the structure of how the city was first created with the inner city street gangs," the heavily tattooed novelist said. "They took pride in the fact that they came from a slum area and then built a criminal network within that area and controlled the lives of people in that area."

Criminologist Vanessa Goodwin has collected abundant evidence that crime is passed down the generations. She looked at five generations of one Tasmanian crime family. Its 167 members had committed more than 2,500 offences and 45 had served at least one jail term.

Goodwin said that in crime families there is "potentially a different value system, a different way of life."

She agrees with Read that those who grow up mired in crime are under pressure to pick up the family legacy and become criminals themselves.

"There's a lot of positive reinforcement to commit crime and not a lot of positive role models of how to get out of involvement in crime and lead a different life," she said.

Just how engaging crime can be is evident in the pride wives and mothers take in the exploits of the men in their lives.

Kath Pettingill, whose Melbourne drug-thug son was killed, seems keen to see the family business keep going despite the attrition rate.

"Chopper Read said I've lost, I'm running out of sons, but let me tell you that there's 49 of us left - that's a lot of people left in my family," she said.

Helping keep the tradition going is the easy money. The Morans are rich despite not being in regular employment. Mark Moran employed a bodyguard despite being an unemployed pastry chef and part-time personal trainer.

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