Banning gang patches "a waste of time"

By APN, Genevieve Helliwell

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Banning gang patches in Tauranga is "a waste of police time and resources'', a community spokesperson in one of Tauranga's poorest suburbs says.

Merivale Community Centre chief executive Graham Cameron spoke out after Rotorua MP Todd McClay's private member's bill to ban gang patches was debated in Parliament.

The bill proposed to ban gang insignia in all government buildings,  including schools, hospitals and public service buildings such as Work and Income offices.

If it became law, offenders could face a fine of up to $2000. Police would also have the right to confiscate and destroy patches and insignia.

Mr Cameron said banning gang patches would have little or no effect in Tauranga.

"I think this piece of legislation relates to an issue that doesn't exist in Tauranga,'' he said.

"For us here in Tauranga, do we have an issue with gang violence and organised crime, absolutely we do.

But does this violence and crime happened because they're wearing patches, I doubt there is a link there,'' he said.

"At times in Merivale for example, sometimes people are intimidated and crimes happen and drugs are sold ... but you don't deal with this through banning of patches, you do this through other strategies like the ones police are already enforcing.''

Mr Cameron said he got "quite angry'' when he heard Mr McClay's bill was read in Parliament. He said it was a ``knee-jerk reaction'' and consultation needed to be held with local communities, at grass- roots level.

"This came out of a by-law in Wanganui and naturally there is some curiosity there but I question whether this will have any benefit in Wanganui or any other town.''

Mr McClay said gang members who wore patches did so to intimidate people.

``And I believe law-abiding citizens in New Zealand have a right to be sheltered from that intimidation,'' he said.

Next week, MPs are expected to vote on whether to send the bill to the select committee phase.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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