26 Aug 2019

Crime on the rise in South Auckland: 'Honestly speaking it is scary'

8:48 pm on 26 August 2019

South Auckland leaders want the government to step in and help after a spate of violence in their community this year.

Man died after being assaulted in Sturges Ave, Otahuhu, Auckland.

Police at the scene in Ōtāhuhu where a man died after an assault. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Since March, there have been four people shot dead, and more than half a dozen other shootings in South Auckland.

Over the weekend a man died after an assault in Ōtāhuhu on Saturday night, and a man is in hospital after being stabbed in a Manukau nightclub.

Ōtara and Papatoetoe town centres' manager Rana Judge said the violence was increasing.

"You know it's one or two incidents, it's becoming like every week incidents and most of them are related to guns."

He said it had become so common some had become desensitised to it.

"Honestly speaking it is scary," he said.

Rana Judge was among hundreds in the community who turned out to a hui in May to discuss the spate of violence in the area.

Auckland Council's Manukau war councillor Alf Filipaina said some things had changed since then, including more local government meetings with police.

However, he said the problem had progressed to a point where everyone needed to come together to find a solution.

"With the spate of violence and firearms use I think the time is now, and not let's wait another three, four, five months.

"For me, it's to actually get around the table, for the government to end up saying 'hey we're seeing what's happening, we're getting reports, and we now have discussed it and there is money from this budget or this budget to help towards this.'"

He said previous funding for youth workers had been particularly effective and needed to be reinstated.

Jenny Salesa

Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa said there was no "silver-bullet solution" to such a complex issue. Photo: RNZ Pacific: Sela Jane Hopgood

Manurewa community leader and neighbourhood support coordinator Colleen Brown said the community had the skills and groups wanting to help.

"There's a massive heart here in the south and that needs to be celebrated and supported so if organisations could be given some kind of government funding to do the things we know we can do well and support particularly our young people then that is a step in the right direction."

She said the issues needed a long-term strategy to build trust in the community and bring in those who were disconnected from society.

"Their life is often restricted to five streets: where they live, where their mates live, where the dairy is, where the church is, and where the school is. A lot of their experience is around those streets and until we get into the streets and understand how those streets work, the heartbeat of those streets, we're not going to resolve it.

"It's not about big agencies coming in, it's about the community growing it's own strength and resilience," Ms Brown said.

Manukau East MP Jenny Salesa said she'd been particularly concerned about the violence over the past few months.

"I take the reports of violence seriously and have had meetings with our local police, key leaders in our community, visited local schools and have also attended public meetings. A number of people have requested a reintroduction of youth workers to deal with these issues," she said.

"Violence in the community is often a complex issue without a silver-bullet solution. I am actively working with my ministerial colleagues on how the government can best respond and support this situation."

Arrests and charges

Homicide investigation at Seaside park, Otahuhu, Auckland

Photo: RNZ / Jessie Chiang

Counties Manukau Police crime manager Detective Inspector Tofilau Faa Va'aelua said the number of crimes was concerning, but arrests had been made and people were being held to account.

"We have arrested and charged every single offender responsible for each of the homicides in Counties Manukau which has been the subject of recent media reports.

"We have recovered every single firearm weapon allegedly used in each homicide case - which I must point out is a rarity but a great achievement by our investigators," he said.

"We have recovered all except one of the firearms in all of the reported shootings where a victim has sustained gunshot injuries. Our staff have recovered a number of firearms in unrelated incidents during the course of their duty."

However, he said police couldn't "simply arrest our way out of the issue."

"There needs to be a whole-of-community approach to these issues around organised crime, firearms, violence and family harm," Mr Va'aelua said.

"A number of these cases allegedly involved an element of organised crime and police continue to warn people about the dangers of getting involved with these kinds of criminal groups."

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