We have landed another blow against gangs, gun crime and organised criminal networks with changes announced this week.
In the last parliamentary term we moved across multiple fronts to keep communities safe and tackle the root causes of crime.
We put record numbers of new police on the frontline, increased the resources for victims of crime, especially those suffering from family violence, and supported new approaches to prevent crime in the first place.
We took more than 62,000 military-style semi-automatics off the streets, brought in tougher penalties for gun crime, stopped gang members ever being able to get a firearms licence, and took the first steps to establish a firearms register to better track guns through the community.
We extended the ban on gang patches in government buildings to include two newly arrived Australian gangs, and gave local authorities the power to do the same.
The Hawke's Bay Gang Focus Unit was established in May 2019 and is frequently deployed across the region. Police in the unit have made numerous arrests for Class A drugs such as methamphetamine and seized many illegal firearms and offensive weapons.
We committed 114 additional police officers for the wider eastern district, and they will be in place by 2023. This will increase the police presence on our streets and add specialist investigators to the teams who go after organised crime like gangs and white collar offenders.
We will continue to fight organised crime by ensuring police and other agencies have the resources and powers they need to go after criminal activity, be it drug offending, violence or money laundering.
As Police Minister last term I started work on two further law changes to crack down on gun crime and organised crime. This week, that work has come to fruition.
We announced new laws to make it illegal for high risk people to own firearms or be around firearms through Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs).
It is a privilege, not a right, to own or use a gun. We will take guns out of the hands of those who pose a threat to our communities and ban them from being around firearms. Breaching the conditions of a FPO will be a criminal offence.
Violent gangs and other criminals will not be able to threaten, intimidate, or exploit our communities. The FPOs will be an extra tool for police to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals, and to keep our communities safe.
We will also bring in a law to toughen the rules around proceeds of crime. Police will get new powers to seize assets from people if they can't prove they had legitimate income to have bought the asset. This goes after the gang members and fraudsters who flaunt their bling and expensive cars and properties, which are a clear signal of criminal profits.
We're hitting gangs where it hurts – their pockets. The law change will remove the primary reason for organised crime – profits made from the suffering of vulnerable New Zealanders.
Those involved in organised crime, including those who launder money, will have to prove their assets were obtained legitimately.
Gangs keep trying new ways to recruit members and hide their illegal activity. Since 2015 the offenders deported from Australia have changed the gang landscape, showing increased professionalism and making more use of techniques like encrypted devices. Regardless of this, senior gang members have been arrested and held accountable for their offending in court. Police will not tolerate gang activity.
The safety of New Zealanders is a key focus and we will keep trying new ways to hold people accountable and protect communities. The new laws announced this week are part of that ongoing work and we are committed to giving police the powers and resources they need.
- Stuart Nash is Napier MP