11 Jun 2021

Police team targeting organised crime set to descend on Waikato

11:17 am on 11 June 2021

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says she has noted with police an increased visibility of gangs in the area amid a crackdown on organised crime.

Hamilton mayoral candidate Paula Southgate

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate says the city is not unsafe after police described it as a "significant hub" of organised crime. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

From July, a police team especially focused on organised crime is set to descend on the region.

It comes after police arrested 35 people, including senior members of the Comancheros, the Mongrel Mob and the Head Hunters, across the North Island.

Speaking to Morning Report on Wednesday, Detective Superintendent Greg Williams said police believe the Waikato Comancheros and the Waikato Mongrel Mob were working as one, and Hamilton was a hub of crime.

"Devices were being used by Mongrel Mob members along with Waikato Comancheros that were engaged in significant drug dealing importation, in our view they were working as one.

"We see Hamilton as quite a significant hub and in fact the plan is to put another 700 staff in organised crime, which the National Organised Crime group is obtaining an amount of that, so we'll be putting a team into Waikato."

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate told Morning Report the city accounted for a large portion of the population of the central North Island and up to Auckland, and it was also a corridor between major cities.

"So it doesn't surprise me the share of organised crime going on here in Hamilton, but of course no mayor would be happy about that."

Southgate said she was in regular talks with police and welcomed their plan to "keep Hamilton in that safe city mode".

"The way I understand it is we're catching up with what other parts of the country have already got. We're getting a group focused on serious supply of drugs and organised crime, a special group of people to deal with that.

"I think we got what we've deserved with some extra police in Hamilton ... and I really applaud them for their prevention focus, taking out the big leaders of organised crime but also working to prevent crime in the community."

While she said she was not aware of growing organised crime in the area, but she had noted an increased visibility of gangs in conversations with police.

"But organised crime is very mobile, and also does tend to rumble under the radar.

"We haven't been an unsafe city, it's still safe for people to move around.

"We're talking about undercover gangs who are, by stealth, moving drugs around the entire country."

She said they had several programmes with police to combat the problem, including one to design areas of the city in a way that reduces the opportunity for crime, community prevention schemes, patrolling police, and a voluntary group patrolling to report to police too.

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