Stephanie is the Rotorua Daily Post's head of news

Gang violence isolated incident- mayor

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Police at checkpoints in Fordlands this week. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
Police at checkpoints in Fordlands this week. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

Residents are not at high risk and the perception of Rotorua has not been affected by the violent incidents arising from ongoing gang tension, Rotorua's mayor says.

The torching of a Turner Dr address and gun shots in the streets of Western Heights and Fordlands this week have been attributed to growing tensions between two factions of the Black Power gang.

Police have said hostility between both parties had been simmering in the city since 2010.

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick told the Rotorua Daily Post she had been thoroughly briefed by police about the incidents and believed the public was not at high risk.

"Public safety is always at the forefront and so when incidents like this occur, there is always a high level of concern.

"But I am confident police have acted appropriately and kept everyone in the area safe. Unfortunately I don't think any city, district or town can escape these incidents."

Mrs Chadwick said the main message was for people to keep safe when they saw strange behaviour.

"It's important people are vigilant and understand incidents can happen. Stay inside, don't get involved and call 111."

She described the incident as "isolated" and was not a matter of insufficient police resources.

When asked whether this latest string of events would impact the overall perception of the city by locals and tourists, she said it was no worse in Rotorua than anywhere else.

"The public know these incidents happen and recognise that there is no place without risk. It did not happen in a tourist area, it was in the suburbs which, while still not good enough, is not somewhere tourists are likely to go.

"What we should take from this is the importance of building strong neighbourhoods where this kind of behaviour is not condoned."

Rotorua police area commander Inspector Bruce Horne said the incidents this week were reflective of gang culture, "characterised by violence, intimidation, drug dealing and a blatant disregard for social norms".

"Gangs have been a blight on New Zealand's social landscape for decades and police throughout New Zealand are dealing with gang-related crime on a daily basis.

"We have received very positive feedback from people in the Fordlands and Western Heights communities in respect of the police response to these latest incidents."

Mr Horne said police would be increasing presence in the two neighbourhoods and had launched a criminal investigation to hold those responsible to account.

"The increased police presence in those neighbourhoods is in an effort deter further offending and apprehend those who are engaged in unlawful activities.

"As a result of that response, three people associated with gangs have been arrested in the past two days - but on charges not directly related to the shootings.

"In parallel with that prevention activity, police have launched a criminal investigation and are in the process of gathering and evaluating evidence as part of the effort to hold those responsible for the offending to account for their actions."

Mr Horne said police urged locals with information to come forward.

"Police understand why some people might be reluctant to provide information about these crimes, but it is important that they do. We will not be able to solve these crimes, or prevent further offences from occurring - without the support of the communities we serve.

"Police are also very aware that the majority of the people living in these neighbourhoods are sick and tired of the harmful influence of gangs on their families, which is why it is so important they summon the courage to take a stand against this kind of bullying behaviour and tell the police what they know."

- Rotorua Daily Post

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