25 Apr 2010

Patch ban not expected to modify gang behaviour

6:46 am on 25 April 2010

District councils are being warned that bans on gang patches won't modify the behaviour of gang members.

A by-law was passed by Whanganui District Council last year, banning all gang insignia from the city centre and other designated public areas.

Local Government New Zealand wants national legislation so other councils can follow Whanganui's lead and pass similar by-laws, but a University of Canterbury researcher on the development of gangs says that wouldn't help.

Jarrod Gilbert says the move is cosmetic and may do more harm than good.

He says stripping gang members of their patches will merely force them to identify themselves in other ways.

A bill is being drafted on behalf of Local Government NZ for submission to the Minister of Local Government.

Kensington Swan lawyer Grant Hewison says a law change could be in place by the end of this year.

Move welcomed by Mayor

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear says the ability to pass by-laws banning gang patches, without the need for a special local act of Parliament, is another step forward in fighting organised crime.

While not every council will choose to enact such a by-law, she says councils should be able to do so.