23 Jan 2020

Six arrests over East Coast gang tensions - police

6:29 pm on 23 January 2020

Police have arrested half a dozen people over the past two days as they seek to ease tensions between gangs in the Eastern District.

A police officer holds a firearm at the scene of the Hamilton shooting on Tuesday.

A police officer holds a firearm at the scene of the Hamilton shooting. Photo: Claire Eastham-Farrelly/RNZ

Two men in Ruatoria and Gisborne, aged 26 and 29, were arrested yesterday and charged with the commission of a crime involving a firearm, and for threatening acts.

It follows two shootings - in Ruatoria and Taradale - over the weekend which police said were not connected but involved gang activity.

A 31-year-old man was arrested in Havelock North charged with methamphetamine possession and possession of an offensive weapon. A 22-year-old woman was arrested at the same time over breach of conditions.

A further two men were arrested in Flaxmere, one of whom had a large knife and the other a small axe. They were also carrying cannabis and synthetic drugs.

Police in the region are carrying firearms.

They said they were in contact with senior gang members and were working with them and other groups to diffuse tensions.

"This is a difficult time for our communities, who are understandably concerned about recent events," police said.

"We are alert to these concerns, and remain determined to protect them and ensure they are safe."

Police have previously said they would continue carrying firearms for "as long as is deemed necessary".

The arrests followed that of a 49-year-old man over the weekend after the Ruatoria shooting on Saturday.

The Taradale shooting on Sunday left a 25-year-old man with serious injuries to face, head and torso.

Police have said gang violence will not be tolerated. They said they younger gang members "don't appear to have the same level of control as they once did".