Kate Hawkesby: Time to call enough with rising gang violence

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jan 2020, 9:19AM
Photo / Supplied

Kate Hawkesby: Time to call enough with rising gang violence

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Wed, 22 Jan 2020, 9:19AM

COMMENT

Gangs have always been a political football but I'm wondering whether the old live and let live approach, exhibited by so many these days, is actually working when it comes to gangs.

You can't argue with the numbers, and the numbers say they're on the rise.

New figures In October last year, showed the total number of patched gang members had increased by 26 per cent over two years. That's almost 1400 new gang members.

And what've we seen this week?

Well, we've got two incidents within two days involving guns.

A shotgun pellet fired by a gang member, almost struck a child in a carseat in Taradale. That was during a brawl of about 30 to 40 gang members in a downtown street.

The other incident was a drive-by shooting in Ruatoria.

What's concerning about this - and I don't mean a child almost getting shot, and innocent people in danger - I mean what's irritating about gangs brawling, is that they seem to be doing it more frequently these days. And in public places.

Police have a couple of theories: One, that there're an increasing number of younger members in gangs who perhaps don't have the same level of respect for the elder members; or two, with the increased numbers, the gang leaders don't have as much control as they used to.

Gang tensions have continued to escalate in recent months. Police say they're "investigating a number of serious incidents and outbreaks of violence in public places".

Why though? Why are members of the public having to bear witness to this kind of madness?

Why are children sitting car seats in the main street of a town all of a sudden in danger?

Why are gangs being allowed to run rogue around town, without anyone closing them down before it gets to the guns and bullets? How do they even still have shotguns?

So why isn't more being done about it?

Police Minister Stuart Nash was quick to point out the Government is increasing police numbers, and they've seized 1500 illegal firearms already. But the problem with the approach to gangs is an attitude I reckon.

You have to want to fix it, or want to eradicate them.

And when we have community groups who say, "oh, gangs are no problem, there's actually some good people in gangs" then we are diluting their danger.

Opposition leader Simon Bridges and his strike force raptors idea was mocked, and maybe that is too far in the other direction, but to give gangs the impression they can have free reign over public spaces in townships around New Zealand is setting yourself up for tragedy.

There needs to be a stronger deterrent, a stronger disincentive.

Because, until we take the dangers of gangs seriously, we can't expect public brawls to abate any time soon.