Chch suburb may attempt to ban gang patches

By Shelley Robinson

Two weeks ago patched Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang members clashed in the New Brighton Mall. Photo / File / Brett Phibbs
Two weeks ago patched Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang members clashed in the New Brighton Mall. Photo / File / Brett Phibbs

Police are considering trying to ban gang patches in New Brighton, Christchurch, after a flare up between gang members and ongoing intimidation.

The move will be similar to the one former Wanganui mayor Michael Laws orchestrated against the Hells Angels in 2009.

The bylaw banning gang matches in Wanganui eventually failed after the Hells Angels appealed it in the high court.

Justice Denis Clifford said the ban was unlawful because it covered a wide area and the Wanganui District Council had not considered all the issues in relation to freedom of expression.

But Christchurch police say their legal experts are confident the by-law could work there if it related to a smaller concentrated area, such as New Brighton.

"It would be a very useful tool," Sergeant Andrew Judson said.

Two weeks ago patched Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang members clashed in the New Brighton Mall. Two arrests were made.

Gang members and associates have also been gathering outside the New Brighton Library. Police say people are feeling intimidated.

On Wednesday night, more than 50 residents and business owners attended a public meeting called by the police to discuss how to address a crime strategy for New Brighton after ongoing disorder and vandalism issues.

Police told the meeting one of their strategies was to consider banning gang patches.

Sergeant Judson said in spite of the High Court ruling in Wanganui, the campaign had been successful there.

Before the appeal, police had seized and destroyed a large number of gang patches, to the point patched members were "reluctant" to wear them, he said.

City councillor Aaron Keown said he would support police if they sought a bylaw.

"Any form of intimidating clothing in a public place is not okay. Some people may say well then a rugby team are a gang then but there is a difference between a group of 18 to 25 guys who wear the same uniform and a gang member who puts on a patch specifically designed to intimidate people," he said.

Deputy Mayor Ngaire Button said she would need proof that patched gang members were in New Brighton.

"I'm not convinced that there is a problem, if the police say there is, then okay but I'm not keen on tying up staff resources on a wild goose chase," she said.

Cr Glenn Livingstone said he would support police in principle.

"If the police think it would work then I would support it - however as a cautionary note the more you try to suppress people the more they will rebel," he said.

New Brighton Business Association and Landowners manager Paul Zaanen said he was surprised police were considering bans.

"I didn't think it was that bad, I mean it is not Wanganui. But the police are obviously a bit more well informed and they must have a reason," he said.

Canterbury University sociologist Jarrod Gilbert, who has studied New Zealand gangs and just released a book on the subject, says the police have got it wrong.

He said it was unlikely police would be able to get around the High Court judgement by focusing on a smaller area.

"I think they will hit the same legal snag," he said.

He said Wanganui by-aw as an "unmitigated disaster".

Banning gang patches would not solve problems in New Brighton, he said.

"Quite simply it won't solve gang issues in any way or form," he said.

"If they are committing crimes there are numerous laws like intimidation which they [the police] have in their arsenal," he said.

- CHRISTCHURCH STAR

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