14 May 2024

Police to establish national gang unit

2:55 pm on 14 May 2024

Police will establish a national gang unit, supported by 'district gang disruption teams', to target crime, harm, and intimidation caused by patched members.

The national team will work with police districts across the country, drawing on joint operations to monitor gang funerals and other activity.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, announcing the plan on Tuesday, said resourcing was likely to include a mix of new investment and other resources being moved around.

Coster said he imagined 25 to 30 people will staff the new national unit, while the smaller district teams would be about seven officers.

He said he believed there would be a reduction in gang numbers (currently around 9000) once they got the units up and running and got the tools the government was providing through new legislation.

Other new legislation would include a ban on gang insignia in public places and giving police greater powers to stop gang members congregating.

Police Minister Mark Mitchell was adamant about pushing ahead with plans to ban patches despite criticism.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster with Police Minister Mark Mitchell announcing the police's new national gang unit.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster, right, with Police Minister Mark Mitchell announcing the police's new national gang unit. Photo: RNZ / Finn Blackwell

Coster said officers have discretion when it comes to gang members wearing their patches in public.

It might be a case of calling on the members at their homes and confiscating the patches there.

Gangs gave rise to all sorts of harm and once police had a better handle on what was going on their harmful activities would fall, he said.

"Gang members commit a disproportionate amount of crime and harm in New Zealand, and particularly in the areas of serious assault, robberies, drug and firearms offences, and homicides," Coster said.

"Police has been working hard to combat the impact of gangs and organised crime groups in recent times, through targeted national and district operations, organised crime investigations, Offender Prevention Teams, and many other responses.

"A new National Gang Unit is to be established to enable the continuation of this work and build our operational capability further."

Gangs were responsible for 9 percent of violent crime, and 18 percent of very serious violent crimes.

While no targets had been set, Coster said police will be able to see any reduction in crime within communities.

Mitchell said the Budget at the end of May would have clearer details on how much the new measures would cost.

The national gang unit will be set up by 1 July and the district units to be established "right across the country" later.

Decisions would be based on where gangs were most active.

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