The increase in gang numbers in recent years is truly frightening and puts the safety of law abiding New Zealanders into serious question. Innocent bystanders are being put in harm’s way.
The recent problems that arose in Napier at two separate locations; one being in the main street of Taradale, reinforces that the gangs are running amok and the gang elders simply do not have the authority over the young members as much as they had hoped and something has to be done quickly.
It doesn’t take an expert or research to figure out that there is a major methamphetamine problem within the gangs. Not only personal addiction but a turf war over who can sell it and where. They had the same problem with marijuana, however the effects of meth use is far more dangerous.
Police Minister Stuart Nash recently admitted New Zealand has a gang problem but believes that the Government have done a lot to tackle it. That seems to be this Government’s go to line! Yet the rising problems continue and is getting worse – Hawkes Bay alone has seen an increase in the number of patched gang members of 30-35% in the last 2 years.
Minister Nash also said the gangs have become more sophisticated and organised, predominantly because of their control over the methamphetamine trade. He believes it is an issue New Zealand has been grappling with for 8 or 9 years but says it’s only in the last 2 years that they have provided the Police with the resource they need to go hard after the gangs.
What his comments make very clear is that Nash is not paying attention to the issues faced by those working on the front line, and he is not really confronting the actual issues going on in his own hometown! If he had, I doubt he would have contradicted almost everything the Area Commander Tania Kura and Detective Inspector Rob Jones said in their press conference.
The Commander has said the issue is well beyond the Police, claiming anyone who thought the Police could stem the number of young men signing up with the gangs was a fool. Yet Nash believes upping Police numbers and giving them more power was going to work.
The youth in the gangs have no respect for the law, they know they cannot be charged in court and sent to prison if they are under 18, unless they commit murder. All they are likely to have imposed is an alternative action such as diversion and they have little or no respect for Police.
Admittedly some of the elders in the gangs are not as bad as the youth coming through, but at some point the leaders must take some responsibility for what they have allowed to happen.
This government are so wrapped up in their push to lower the prison muster, that it seems they have put the gang problem in the too hard basket and they have completely missed the mark on preventing offending and protecting the safety of the community. They have even taken on a gang member to act as an advisor of sorts to them, and this gang member is also doing cultural reports for gang members charged in court. What do you think those cultural reports suggest? Our judicial system now must take into account the contents of a cultural report during sentencing, and this often leads to up to 30% discount on a sentence if the cultural report suggests colonisation effects, or disconnection with an offenders Maori heritage contributed to their offending.
According to an OIA request as of 2018 the total number of prisoners that were in a gang or affiliated made up 3652 of the 10820 prison population. 2443 of that number were sentenced and 1209 were in remand.
So what does our problem come down to?
Legislation, those in power who run our country, and the gang leaders!
Our protectors are allowing sex offenders, violent offenders and recidivist offenders to be released on home detention. They have said publicly they recognise we have a problem and have made promises to fix the Justice system and the issues we face, yet all we are seeing is offenders being released from prison, and very little work on how to prevent the offending.
If gangs honestly want to show they are not all bad people and the problem lies with meth and kids coming from a “once were warriors” home, then step up and protect those kids. Do not allow the violence to continue within your family! Step up and teach your young members that violence is not the answer. Show them that there are greater things out there than a life of drug fuelled crime!