The gang shootings of the last week suggest to me that we are creeping ever closer to the inevitable need to arm the police.
I take no pleasure in saying that. It’s not something I want to see.
But the facts are staring us in the face. In the last week we’ve had the Head Hunters headquarters in Auckland sprayed with bullets, an attempted bombing in in the city, fortunately intercepted by the police, and then yesterday, gang members walking into the lobby of the Sofitel and opening fire in broad daylight.
To those in the know, this looks like a tit-for-tat war between the Mongols and the Head Hunters. They’re jostling for primary, something’s gone awry and now someone’s out for retribution. If that is the case it might mean it’s a temporary flare up and not necessarily an indication of a level of sustained violence that we should expect.
But they do also see this kind of violence as the new normal. We have now had a series of gun related offences committee by gangs in recent years. Hawke’s Bay has gang tensions, Tauranga has gang tensions, Wellington has exploding numbers.
The police association reckon front line officers have lately been told to arm up once a week on average because of concerns around local firearms violence.
Things have changed. This is not the innocent country it was 30, 40, 50 years ago.
Those gang members arriving here, deported from Australia, have changed everything.
The Mongols, the Comancheros, you name them, are more ruthless, more bold, and by the looks of things more happy to pull a gun than most of our existing gangs.
If these guys are prepared to act like they do in Australia and open fire on each other in broad daylight then we can hardly expect our cops to cruise around most of the time without the ready ability to keep themselves safe.
I know some will argue that arming the police sets off a chain reaction: if the cops are packing then the gangs will make sure they’re always packing and everyone will get tetchy and far more trigger happy. And that is a valid concern and one that I share.
But the gangs are packing. And increasingly our police are packing if you look at those stats. It does feel as if routine arming is now inevitable.