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Kerre Woodham: Where was the buy in from the police?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 10:48am
Photo / File
Photo / File

Kerre Woodham: Where was the buy in from the police?

Author
Kerre Woodham,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 May 2024, 10:48am

Late in the show yesterday, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster along with Police Minister Mark Mitchell announced they would be introducing a National Gang Unit to crack down on gang crime and gangs’ anti-social behaviour.  

Coster said police know gang members commit a large amount of the crime in New Zealand. I don’t think it’s a state secret. I think most of us are well aware that the gangs are either committing it, or behind a large amount of the crime in New Zealand. He says 8% of all violence and 18% of serious violence. I'd love to know how many robberies and ram raids they were behind too, using young children to do the actual dirty work. 

The National Gang Unit would be a dedicated, specialised gang unit of 25-30 people with ring-fenced staff of up to seven staff in every police district across the country.  

Coster said this action will be a continuation of Operation Cobalt. Fabulous. You might’ve seen the results of Operation Cobalt in the crime and the court news, numbers of gang members up before the courts getting prosecuted, getting assets stripped. The proceeds of the Crime Act are well and truly in force and in play with all the bling, and the diamond studs, and the gold chains, and the cars, and the motorbikes being seized by police, all as a result of Operation Cobalt.  

All well and good, and precisely what this coalition Government campaigned on. And to be fair, Operation Cobalt was in play in the last administration as well, but people were sick to death of seeing gang violence, senseless deaths in the name of protecting patches, the flouting of laws on a daily basis, and just the general swagger. I live outside the law. I don’t obey the same rules, I don’t care, two fingers to you. And they were allowed to get away with it for far too long. 

So, cool.  I’m glad the government is doing what they said they were going to do and cracking down on the gangs, but you have to get the buy in from the police, and according to the Police Association President Chris Cahill there won't be any extra resources or staff for this new national gang unit.  

“The real problem with this announcement is it’s come with no actual facts around what the extra resourcing will be, what the extra budget will be. And if it doesn't have those things attached to it, you’re just asking the same staff to do more work, or you’re just moving stuff around, and so we really want to see the facts behind that. 

“Look, it’s great to have a focus, but as I say, we’re already overworked and what are we gonna drop? I mean, the Commissioner yesterday said we’ll be doing less mental health and less family harm, but we’ve been hearing that story for a couple of years now and it just hasn’t happened. So, there’s a fair bit of scepticism out there. I mean, officers are pretty keen to get into these gangs, they know they’ve had, you know, far too much leeway and not enough emphasis on policing them, but they’re just bogged down with the amount of work they’ve got at the moment.” 

I know that the Police Association is in the middle of pay negotiations with the government so there'll be a bit of ‘argy bargy’ and a little bit of jockeying for position going on, but seriously - wouldn't it have been a much more powerful statement if you'd had the PA standing alongside the Minister and the Commissioner? If they had all come out together and said we are united in reducing the harm being done to families, to communities, and to society from the gangs and the misery they perpetuate. 

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