Rachel Smalley: It's unacceptable gangs continue to thrive in NZ

By Rachel Smalley

Nash quotes a report issued last year by the Ministry of Social Development that revealed 9 out of every 10 gang members have been on the benefit. Photo / File photo
Nash quotes a report issued last year by the Ministry of Social Development that revealed 9 out of every 10 gang members have been on the benefit. Photo / File photo

Some fighting talk from Labour in Election Year.

Stuart Nash, the Police Spokesman, says if Labour gets in power, he'll put gangs in his sights. It's a little easier said than done, but nonetheless, if you're in an area of the country where gangs are a force and you're familiar with their key source of income - organized crime and drug-dealing - then this will pique your interest.

Nash quotes a report issued last year by the Ministry of Social Development that revealed 9 out of every 10 gang members have been on the benefit, the main benefit, for 9 years. The report looked at a 20 year period, and found that on average, gang members spent a decade on the dole.

In that time alone, guess how much that amounted to? $500 million dollars. That's how much, as taxpayers, we've forked out to gang members in benefits. They're making a lot of money illegally, on the side, and we're funding them to the tune of $500 million dollars.

It's a tough statistic to digest, isn't it?

Of the 3,627 people identified as gang members, over 2,500 have been arrested or charged in the last two years. So put the hundreds of millions of dollars we're spending on benefits to one side for a moment, and add to it the hundreds of millions we're spending putting them through our justice system, and keeping them in prisons. Prisons, they run and traffic drugs through too. The cost of gangs to society - both socially and financially - is enormous.

Part of the answer, according to Stuart Nash, is more police. He says only 200 police are involved in investigating organized crime in this country. And that's not enough. He's right. It's not. Outgoing Police Association President, Greg O'Connor said as much in October. He said pro-active policing of gangs had declined and that had allowed them to grow. He sighted the Head Hunters - their numbers have gone from 135 to 275 in the space of two years.

So Labour says if elected, they'll bring on another 1000 police, and they'll "smash the gangs".

It's fighting talk but at this point, it's light on strategy. More police will help combat gang crime, but the issue is bigger then that. What attracts young people to gangs? What fuels gang culture? It's a much bigger issue then just straight policing.

But I don't think you'd find too many opponents of upping police numbers, and taking a targeted approach to our gangs. To that end Stuart Nash is right. That gangs continue to thrive in this country is - as he says - "totally unacceptable".

- Newstalk ZB

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