26 Nov 2019

National Party wants elite police force to target gangs

5:52 pm on 26 November 2019

National is proposing an elite police squad be set up - modelled on Australia's "Strike Force Raptor" unit - to target and harass gangs with the goal of eliminating them.

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National Party leader Simon Bridges says the party "isn't fooled by gang PR campaigns". Photo: RNZ /Dom Thomas

The idea forms part of the opposition's promised gang crackdown broadly outlined in a law and order discussion document released this afternoon.

Among the other proposals are: a ban on patches and insignia in public, strict parole conditions preventing offenders from returning to their gangs, and tougher sentences.

The document also asks party supporters whether those found guilty of gang-related offending should lose the right to parole altogether.

Speaking at the document's launch in Auckland, leader Simon Bridges said the number of patched gang members had jumped 26 percent under the Labour-NZ First Coalition government.

"National isn't fooled by gang PR campaigns. We know gangs peddle misery in the form of meth and violence and so we are serious," Mr Bridges said.

"The government I lead will harass and disrupt gangs every single day I am prime minister, with the single-minded goal of eliminating them."

The proposed police unit would be based on "Strike Force Raptor" which has been operating in New South Wales since 2009.

In a statement, National's police spokesperson Brett Hudson said the taskforce would work in a proactive way to interrupt gang activity at all levels.

"If someone was punched outside a nightclub by a gang member, the unit would take over the case. If gang members didn't pay their traffic fines, it would follow up to ensure their driver licences were taken away.

"The specialist officers would check gang clubhouses and use council rules to shut them down for shoddy workmanship or unconsented work. If alcohol was being served at the gang pad, it would invoke legislation so the gangs need a liquor licence.

"Officers could check benefit payments and tax records for taxpayer assistance gang members weren't entitled to."

Mark Mitchell

Mark Mitchell. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

National's justice spokesperson Mark Mitchell also issued a statement, saying he had seen the harm gangs caused during his years as a police officer.

"This year alone, we've seen patched Mongrel Mob members carry out initiation ceremonies on Te Mata Peak - a popular destination for families and tourists.

"Patched Mongrel Mob members took over the town centre in Ōpōtiki and raised their flag at the war memorial and patched gang members blocked families from leaving the Wellington ferry terminal."

Mr Mitchell said gang patches and insignia were intimidating.

"We believe New Zealanders should be able to go about their lives without fear and intimidation. Gangs have no regard for the rest of society. They thrive on fear and intimidation. It's time we put a stop to that."

National is planning to release a more comprehensive plan for dealing with gangs next year.

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Kelvin Davis Photo: RNZ / Patrice Allen

Corrections Minister Kelvin Davis described National's discussion document as a "mish-mash of reheated ideas".

"Everything that this government is doing is all designed to stop people going to prison in the first place, but if they do end up in prison, making sure that they come out as better people at the other end."

Mr Davis criticised the Opposition's single-minded focus on gangs.

"We should be targetting anybody who breaks the law - not just focusing on different groups in society," he said.

"We have increased the number of police in New Zealand. The crime rate is going down. What we are doing as a government is actually working."

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