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Party leaders wade into gang debate

Frances Cook, NZME staff,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Mar 2016, 5:25AM
Photo / Warren Buckland | NZ Herald

Party leaders wade into gang debate

Frances Cook, NZME staff,
Publish Date
Wed, 2 Mar 2016, 5:25AM

Updated 10:30AM: A number of Party leaders have waded in to the issue of how to best deal with gangs.

The Government's unveiled a new Gang Intelligence Centre to aid law enforcement, as well as the start of two pilot programmes to help young people, and relatives of gang members, move away from gang lifestyles

New Zealand First's assessment of newly announced anti-gang measures is that they are a waste of time.

Winston Peters is calling the gang intelligence initiative a dog whistle and doesn't think the pilot programmes will do anything.

"Anne Tolley saying that you rely upon two pilot programmes, what does she want to find out? That they are committing crime, well the court record will show that, so will the charge sheet, so will the police records."

While the ACT Party's stopping short of calling for legalisation of illicit drugs, but its leader does want current laws debated.

David Seymour said prohibition is helping generate drug revenue for gangs and if the market was stopped, gangs would be de-funded.

He wants to open up the conversation about what prohibition has done to support gangs.

"We should be moving towards greater awareness of what some of the side effects of prohibition are and one of them is that it provides a source of revenue for gangs."

Mr Seymour said if the Government's serious, it should be looking at gangs' revenue streams.

He said their specialisation is circumventing the prohibition of illegal drugs.

"If you look around the world increasingly what countries are saying is that if you stop giving them a market by prohibiting illicit substances, you actually you actually defund them, and I think that's a debate that New Zealand will have in due course."

Meanwhile the Maori Party believes it has a better strategy than the Government's when it comes to dealing with gang-related problems.

Maori Party Co-Leader Marama Fox said her fear is a wide brushstroke approach will be taken across all gangs and put them and their families in the same box.

She believes the approach her party's been taking is better.

"To work with those gangs to break their own cycles, when you often do 'to' someone all they do is put up barriers and defense's against that."

Police Minister Judith Collins says although the government has a new plan to tackle inter-generational violence associated with gang culture, it's not going to be easy.

It's the first time there's been a combined approach between multiple government agencies, and she said they can no longer think of the issue as being 'too big'or the problems will just continue.

"With these families proliferating as they are, we'll just keep on having more and more violent people and we'll just keep locking them up. So we do actually need to get into this, this is not easy though Mike, if it was easy it would have been done 40 years ago."

She hopes this will make all the difference.

"You know when you look at 60 percent of all children raised in these gang homes are abused... that is what's driving those Child, Youth and Family numbers."

Ms Collins said practical measures like not putting children back with family, or extended family, who are gang members form part of the plan.

However there's a warning that any attempt to tackle gangs needs to start with our prison system.

The Government's launched two pilot programmes in the Bay of Plenty, and the other on the East Coast, as a new report shows that the long-term cost of social support for gang members is more than $700 million.

One of the programmes is aimed at stopping young people being recruited, the other to support the partners and children of gang members.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said the Government was aiming to break inter-generational gang involvement and cut related social costs.

"Gang life ruins families, and the social cost through domestic violence and child abuse is unacceptable," she said.

'Govt continues fight against gang culture'

Green Party criminal justice spokesperson David Clendon said the basic idea works well, as the solution to New Zealand's gang problem "is investment in education, in rebuilding families and housing, in employment opportunities."

However, Clendon said the programmes miss a crucial part of the problem.

"We also need to stop putting so many young men in prison, where inevitably they become recruited by the gangs, particularly the short sentence inmates going into our prisons."


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