7 Nov 2019

Police talk with gangs to encourage gun laws compliance

1:21 pm on 7 November 2019

Police have been talking directly to dozens of influential gang members to convince them to give up their banned guns, but it's yet to result in many illegal weapons being handed over.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush

Police Commissioner Mike Bush Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

In his last appearance before a parliamentary committee, Commissioner Mike Bush fielded questions about the gun buyback and amnesty, the targets for new police officers and roadside testing for drugs and alcohol.

The buyback of weapons made illegal after the Christchurch mosque attacks ends in just over a month.

Commissioner Bush said there had been 300 collection events where good, law-abiding citizens had been handing in their weapons.

He said people had plenty of time to comply with the law, and made a guarantee to the committee: "After that six months, we will be entitled to - and will - be out there looking for the people who didn't comply."

The National Party has criticised what it says is the criminalistion of thousands of gun owners. Meanwhile, gang members are likely to still be harbouring illegal weapons.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement told MPs police had talked to more than 50 gang members directly, out of more than 100 identified as being influential.

"We don't expect gang members wearing patches to front up to local collection points, but what we are hopeful of is that they will listen to our conversation and do the right thing."

But Commissioner Bush told reporters afterwards few weapons had been forthcoming as a result.

Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

He said it would be fair to say gang members had a "different approach to law-abiding members of the public... they're very reluctant to be part of this".

Police would continue to deal with the gangs as they always had, and would respond accordingly if they became aware of illegal weapons, he said.

"We already have a strategy for dealing with gangs, whether it's where we try to intervene with young people who we want to discourage from getting into the harm that might be caused through gangs, or whether through our 'hard end' enforcement at top end organised crime groups."

The police focus on organised crime would "ramp up" as increased funding became available, Commissioner Bush said.

If police did target gangs, that would involve big operations, he said.

"We have to take care of our staff and we have to take precaution that no one gets hurt. We have a set process for doing that, we're very experienced and we'll continue to do it."

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