17 Nov 2020

Whangārei shooting: Gang behaviour getting more vicious - ex-gang member

From Checkpoint, 5:46 pm on 17 November 2020

It is sad that crime has escalated to the point that people are turning guns on police, a former gang members who now runs a community trust says. 

A man has been arrested after police were shot at during a pursuit this morning in Whangārei.

Multiple shots were fired at a patrol car after a vehicle fled from a police checkpoint on Te Hononga Street in Ōtāngarei the early hours.

One neighbour who lives close to where police were shot at told Checkpoint he heard a gun going off - "bang, bang, bang".

Another woman living in the neighbourhood said the incident was terrible and she did not feel safe.

"The young ones are hooning up and down the roads, doing wheelies. Now it's just getting worse here," she said, adding that it would be better if there were more police around.

Northland District Commander Superintendent Tony Hill earlier today said officers would be carrying firearms for the next few days. Since an arrest was made on Tuesday evening, that will no longer continue.

"We take these matters very seriously, just as if it was a member of the community shot at, and the outcry from the community is being really positive this morning. They are equally disgusted as we are."

Former gang member Martin Kaipo - who is now chief executive and co-founder of community organisation Ōtāngarei Trust - said the area was troubled by drugs and gangs.

Otangarei Trust chief executive Martin Kaipo.

Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

"We are low socio-economic communities. There's a high dependency on unemployment benefits. There's a high level of young Māori searching for leadership." 

Kaipo said he didn't know anything about this specific incident but it fit in with the normal gang behaviour.

Things had become more vicious than when he was in a gang two decades ago, and the incident was worrying, he said.

"When it does happen, it is usually confrontation over zoning or like your areas like your communities and stuff like that. They're very protective and they will protect them at any cost where the cost is done through open street warfare or drive-bys.

"The sad thing is that crime is now escalated that is turning against the police. That's sad, but if they're willing to turn to the police, they're willing to turn on anyone."

He said everyone needed to work together to prevent incidents like this from happening - families talking to their young people, better law and enforcement and communities working together.

"We don't care what happens in the next street or neighbour over. We've become so entrenched in ourselves ... the old story was that it takes a village to raise a child."