Police investigating seven drive-by shootings in Auckland overnight have a long, hard slog in front of them.
Those living in the targeted neighbourhoods will be justifiably scared by the bitter feud between two motorcycle gangs, the Tribesmen and the Killer Beez, which were once essentially the same circle of friends.
Witnesses to the shootings will be few and far between; even if they are willing to give a formal statement, anything they did see is likely to be scant on detail.
Security and traffic camera footage will pick up registration plates, but they're most likely to belong to stolen cars which can be almost impossible to trace back.
Those who planned and organised the shootings will communicate by encrypted devices, so there won't be many text messages for police to comb through via a production order.
Forensics on any bullet cases found at the crime scenes might yield a fingerprint, so there could be a lucky break there.
The criminal code of silence means no gang member will willingly go on the record and tell the police what they know.
More likely, detectives will make better progress by shaking down their network of criminal sources for information to put into search warrant applications to the courts. Once those are signed, the police will kick in doors and find a firearm or 10 hidden in a wall somewhere.
Not enough to prove they pulled the trigger in a drive-by, but enough to lock up some gang members involved in the current turf war. For a while anyway.
It's a game of whack-a-mole. Because in the case of the Killer Beez, there are at least 300 others willing to step into the gap.
For the next few weeks, even months, the police across Tamaki Makarau will be raiding the homes of gang members, as well as their friends and family, in a bid to get on top of the problem.
Of course, there is an opportunity cost to dedicating so many resources and focus on two gangs.
Other members of the criminal underworld will be able to fly under the radar, while other investigations will stall as a backlog of other unsolved crimes will grow.
Given the risk to the public, it's almost certain the ongoing war between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen will be the number one priority for the incoming Operation Cobalt.
The gang taskforce is due to start at the end of next month, with the goal of "suppressing, disrupting and enforcing'' unlawful activity by gang members, following five years of radical change in the criminal landscape.
It's not like Operation Cobalt is short of work: over the past two years, there have been tit-for-tat shootings and arsons involving the Mongols, Comancheros, Head Hunters, King Cobras and Rebels gangs in Auckland alone.
Then there remains the bigger question: how to quell the tensions between the Killer Beez and the Tribesmen now?
In the short term, there is no doubt that the public will see more police in the communities targeted by the seven shootings last night, as well as the other five shooting incidents over the weekend.
The tactics of so-called "reassurance" patrols were used in a previous flare-up between the Tribesmen and Killer Beez, with six shootings over five days in a 2km radius around Ōtara back in November 2020.
It's important for those communities to see the police taking it seriously, and no doubt the patrols have a deterrent effect - but only for the duration of the patrols on the street.
Behind the scenes, the police will also be trying to broker a peace deal through someone trusted by both sides.
Speaking more generally, often senior members of warring gangs are able to hold peace talks and put an end to tit-for-tat retribution, before things spiral out of control.
Deals are done, sometimes money exchanges hands. After all, police attention is bad for business.
In this particular case, there is a sense of unease among Auckland detectives that the violence is likely to get worse before it gets better.
The feud is deeply personal.
The suburb of Ōtara in Manukau has been home to the Tribesmen for decades, an established gang who rode motorcycles, hung out at their pad and protected their turf.
All around them was a new breed of wannabe gangster who could never afford a Harley Davidson. Or even want one.
Some disaffected Pasifika youth felt connected to the hip hop culture of the United States, whose heroes rapped lyrics about growing up poor, wore heavy "bling" jewellery, and glamorised street feuds and violent retribution.
So the Tribesmen made a calculated, strategic move in the mid 2000s. They saw the potential of the rebellious young men in their neighbourhood and recruited an army. The Killer Beez was born.
Around the same time, other youth or so-called ABC gangs had ties to established patched gangs: Juvenile Crip Boys (JCB) to Black Power, Red Army to Mongrel Mob, Dope Money Sex (DMS) to the Head Hunters.
Loosely inspired by the warring Crips and Bloods gangs in Los Angeles, the phenomenon of the South Auckland street gangs faded away as members got in trouble with the police, or their disappointed families, or simply grew up.
What made the Killer Beez different from the other feeder gangs was their leader Josh Masters, who held a dual role as a patched member of the Tribesmen.
He was 25 years old, handsome, physically powerful and capable in combat sports like kickboxing, with genuine leadership and business savvy.
An aspiring rapper who called himself Gravity, Masters appeared in music videos and even set up a music label, Colourway Records, which promoted local musicians, held concerts and sold CDs, clothing and merchandise at the Saturday flea markets.
Young people were used to seeing the glamour and wealth of rap culture in music videos on the MTV channel, but this was Ōtara not Los Angeles.
Masters was a homegrown hero to whom some kids looked up, whose political lyrics spoke to a generation of Pasifika youth on the margins of society.
To disenfranchised youth, the Killer Beez appealed as a potent combination of contemporary hip hop street culture and the structure of traditional patched gangs, building a highly marketable modern gang the likes of which New Zealand had never seen.
Masters was untouchable, the epitome of cool, and young men flocked to join his black and yellow banner.
In January 2008, the Killer Beez made headlines for the first time and were linked to a number of violent acts across Auckland, including several particularly sickening beatings where people were bashed around the head with baseball bats.
For months, Masters kept his silence until he gave an interview to journalist John Campbell in a prime-time television slot.
With remarkable sangfroid, the now 30-year-old Masters publicly denied any connection between the Killer Beez and violence, or rumours of drug dealing.
"We're against it, we hate it," said Masters, when asked of the gang's attitude towards methamphetamine.
"I have no drug convictions whatsoever. It's not because I'm good at what I do, or good at what [the police] think that I'm doing," Masters said. "I give you my word. No drugs. I'm not known for taking drugs, my family knows that, my friends know that, my boys know that, and now New Zealand knows that.
"I've got nothing to hide."
A few weeks later, Masters and 43 other Killer Beez and Tribesmen members and associates were arrested in Operation Leo which intercepted 110,000 phone calls and text messages.
The Killer Beez had tried to portray themselves as "modern-day Robin Hoods", Detective Inspector John Tims told waiting media at a standup press conference.
"They have attempted to achieve status through music and videos in connection with the youth of our community," said Tims. "Based on the evidence secured throughout this operation and today, in simple terms they are drug dealers who are causing destruction and chaos in our community by their actions."
Despite pleading guilty to supplying methamphetamine, conspiracy to supply the Class-A drug, as well as laundering money through Colourway Records, Masters managed to drag the case out for a further two years by firing lawyers, claiming poor legal advice and arguing about evidence in an attempt minimise his criminal culpability and eventual prison sentence.
"I accept that you have genuine leadership qualities and undoubted business acumen," said Justice Kit Toogood in sentencing Masters to 10 years and 5 months in prison.
"It is a great shame that your obvious qualities as a charismatic leader amongst your peers were not confined to legitimate business enterprises."Operation Leo achieved its goal of swatting Josh Masters to one side and, consequently, diminish the size and influence of the Killer Beez on the streets of Ōtara, much to the relief of local residents.
Unfortunately, the harsh environment of prison proved an even more fertile ground for recruiting alienated and angry young men.
Masters' army kept growing behind bars and the Killer Beez soon earned a reputation as dangerous prisoners, with brutal attacks on other inmates and prison guards.
By the time he left Paremoremo in May 2018, the gang had grown to 312 members.
Once a ragtag group of childhood friends, the Killer Beez was now the fourth largest gang in New Zealand behind the Head Hunters, Black Power and Mongrel Mob.
In Masters' absence from Ōtara, ,any of the original Killer Beez had graduated to the colours of the Tribesmen and re-established the gang's dominance in their old stomping ground.
His homecoming was met with resistance from his former friends, and tensions flared with a number of shootings as Masters reasserted himself.
Everything came to a head in April 2019, when a senior Tribesmen member shot Masters inside the Harley Davidson dealership in Mt Wellington.
The man who pulled the trigger was Okusitino Tae, one of Masters' closest friends growing up, and a former Killer Beez soldier.
He handed himself in and was jailed for seven years. Masters got a life sentence. The president of the Killer Beez is paralysed from the waist down from his injuries.
Despite his physical limitations, Masters is clearly in charge of the Killer Beez and most recently seen riding a quad bike in a convoy as part of the gang's recent annual conference.
The chances of Masters sitting down to broker a truce with the Tribesmen in the near future are probably non-existent, according to several sources.
"There is a deep hatred between these two groups," one officer told the Herald. "It's hard to see this settling down anytime soon."