A series of tit-for-tat drive-by shootings targeting South Auckland homes over the weekend are believed to be linked to a feud between two formerly allied gangs.
The Herald understands the terrifying incidents — one allegedly involving at least 44 shots fired at a house — are related to tensions between the Tribesmen and Killer Beez, with fears violence could continue to escalate.
In recent years the simmering tensions between the warring gangs have repeatedly boiled over into street violence in Auckland and Northland.
One of the latest known shootings happened shortly before midnight on Sunday in Phoenix Place, Papatoetoe. A window of the home was riddled with bullet holes. No one was injured.
A home was also targeted in Ōtara on Sunday night.
On Saturday night there were three shootings — in Red Hill, Māngere and Flat Bush. The Flat Bush property is tied to a senior Killer Beez member, stoking fears the conflict could worsen.
Officers investigating the shooting at the gang-linked house in Red Hill told a local they had found 44 bullet casings on the driveway.
The attacks have continued into this week.
On Monday evening a home in Clayton Ave, Ōtara was shot at, while a series of shots fired in the Far North town of Kaikohe, a traditional Tribesmen stronghold seeing an increased Killer Beez presence, are also thought to be linked to the conflict,
Detective Inspector Warrick Adkin, of Counties Manukau, confirmed to the Herald police believe the attacks are gang-related.
But, Adkin said, on at least one occasion gunmen had targeted a home with no known gang links.
"It is extremely fortunate that no one has been harmed in these incidents ... These offenders have shown they have no regard for the safety of their community."
Adkin urged people in the area to immediately report any suspicious behaviour.
The Killer Beez began about two decades ago as a youth feeder street gang for the Tribesmen in Ōtara but relations between the groups soured as the Killer Beez gained power and influence.
They have not recovered since the shooting of Killer Beez president Josh Masters by his former friend, Tribesmen sergeant-at-arms Okusitino Tae, in 2019.
Masters was left paralysed by the shooting but is still a prominent figure at Killer Beez patching ceremonies and motorcycle runs. Tae pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2020.
There have been several public flare-ups in tensions characterised by shootings and beatings in the ensuing years, including in Ōtara late in 2020 and in Kaikohe this year.
Manukau ward councillor and former long-serving South Auckland police officer Alf Filipaina said he was dismayed about the prevalence of gun crime in his area, saying it had become especially noticeable in the past three years.
"It's just shocking. People just don't care about using firearms."
Filipaina said he would be taking the issue up with Jill Rogers, Counties Manukau District Commander, to see if there was anything he or the council could do to help. "I'm quite adamant in putting the onus on the families who know where these firearms are."
He said anyone who had confidential information could call him. "I can guarantee it will stay confidential."
Filipaina reiterated his call for more funding for youth workers, which he said had been highly effective when introduced in the area about 15 years ago, after a spate of homicides, before funding dried up a few years later.
"I've been a broken record. It wraps the family around, it goes into the family and finds out why they're doing this, why they're going into gangs," Filipaina said.
National Party police spokesman Mark Mitchell recently told the Herald the Government was not giving police enough powers to target gangs and get guns off the street. "The minute the public, who want to feel safe, hear shots in their community and there's people shooting each other, it creates a lot of trauma and unease."
Police Minister Poto Williams said the recent Budget delivered $94 million to tackle gangs and organised crime "with strong enforcement being essential whilst at the same time working with communities to address the social factors that lead to people joining gangs in the first place".
"This is in addition to Operations Tauwhiro and Cobalt which work to break supply chains by preventing illicit assets and proceeds of crime from crossing the border and by disrupting firearms trafficking and violence," she said.
Operation Tauwhiro was started early last year to address and prevent firearms-related violence by organised crime groups.
Operation Cobalt is to launch in earnest next month and run for at least six months.
It is set to closely monitor and disrupt gang motorcycle runs and processions, while responding in force to gang related violence and disorder.