Eight with gang links held by police

By Kristin Edge of the Northern Advocate -
Photo / File
Photo / File

Eight men with gang links have been arrested as police work with the Moerewa community to quell gang tensions in the town.

Gang rivalries over recent weeks have been blamed for a drive-by shooting, a stabbing and the torching of cars, sparking an increased police presence.

Residents say more police had been seen at night patrolling Moerewa, leading to a marked decrease in gang activity.

Community members and three gangs have agreed to meet to talk through a positive way forward.

Gang members were amongst the 300-plus people who attended a Moerewa community meeting this month.

Since then, a focus group of up to 20 people has had two more meetings.

The focus group was scheduled to meet with gang members from the Mongrel Mob, Rebels and the Tribesmen on Wednesday at Otiria Marae but some of the gang members had been arrested.

The men, aged between 22 and 44, arrested this week now face a variety of charges.

The charges included breach of bail, unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of cannabis, possession of equipment to produce and cultivation of cannabis.

Six of the men have been remanded in custody and will appear again in Kaikohe District Court next month.

Acting manager Criminal Investigations Detective Senior Sergeant Kevin Burke said police had worked with residents to address community safety issues after incidents in Moerewa. Search warrants had been acted on, which led to the eight arrests.

However, Far North area commander Inspector Wendy Robilliard would not discuss tactics or whether extra police staff had been rostered on to patrol Moerewa at night.

Community member Peeni Henare said the community wanted to work with gangs, rather than isolate them, by opening up lines of communication: "There has been an increased police presence and that's a good thing.

"There have been more cars patrolling the streets and I've noticed fewer Harley Davidsons blaring up the roads. Kids aren't out roaming around the streets late at night," Mr Henare said.

"Kicking out gangs isn't the answer. We have to work with them and remind them they were our brothers and whanau before they were gang members."

He said there needed to be a healing and reconciliation process.

Mr Henare said there needed to be a long-term approach about creating opportunity and education for the young people of Moerewa and providing a positive environment.

"Rather than a scatter-gun approach we want to start off with small achievements for the kids. So we have to warn them off the gangs and give them positive options.

"There are lots of services they just seem to skip over Moerewa, but the needs here in Moerewa are great.

"We will be looking at how we make these services accountable in Moerewa."

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