Barry Soper: The tale of drugs and gangs

There are some things you do in your career that you'd rather not have done. Mine was infiltrating a southern motorcycle gang more than 40 years ago and riding to the Alexandra Blossom Festival which you'd think would be a most unlikely place for gangs to assemble, but that they did from all over the country.

The gangs had complained they'd the previous year been roughed up by the police who weren't wearing their identification numbers, which of course they're required to do by law.

Riding through the countryside with around a hundred thundering bikes certainly gave you a feeling of power, but that feeling turned to disgust at what they got up to when several hundred of them set up camp at an area on the outskirts of the Central Otago town called The Pines.

In those days though, drugs weren't the problem that they are today.

Not too many years later the then Prime Minister Rob Muldoon had gang members up to his office to try and steer them away from crime and into work and laid down the law to them about showing more respect for their women and children.

He became the patron of Black Power who performed a rousing haka at his funeral in 1992.

Around that time less than 10 percent of prison inmates had gang connections, today more than 30 percent of them are gangsters with the biggest proportion coming from the Mongrel Mob.

These days most of the gangs are heavily involved in the drug trade, in particular producing and peddling the insidious methamphetamine, or P.

Since 2009 almost $140million has been forfeited from the proceeds of crime but up until yesterday just $15million has been reinvested in anti drug programmes. That's now been doubled, now that the P problem seems to be out of control.

Fed up, a Ngaruawahia based gang the Tribal Huks, which makes hundreds of sandwiches for hungry school kids every day, last week gave P dealers 24 hours to get out of their town. They now claim the town is meth free after purging ten houses known to be associated with the drug.

John Key welcomed the action, providing they stuck within the law, and since no one's complaining it seems they have, although complaints would receive little sympathy, that is if they could find someone to complain to.

Key told us not to be deluded though by thinking that the bulk of the manufacture and distribution of drugs isn't controlled by the gangs.

The law's been made tougher on those who involve themselves with criminal gangs but short of outlawing them, it looks as though we have no choice but to try and manage the mess and that, on so many levels, is an indictment on our society.

- Newstalk ZB

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