Remember when Simon Bridges was the former leader of the National Party? And remember when he suggested establishing a New Zealand version of Strike Force Raptor to combat the gangs?
In 2019, then Police Minister Stuart Nash released figures showing the number of patched gang members in the country had risen 26 per cent since Labour formed the coalition government. Presenting those figures to the House must have been like coughing up a fur ball for Nash.
In response, Bridges said that New Zealand had to adopt the same approach to gangs that the Aussies had taken.
The new gangs are far more sophisticated than the home-grown Mongrel Mob and Black Power, and far more brutal.
Patched gang members were up 26 per cent in 2019, we had the highest rate of gun crime and deaths since 2010, the number of guns seized by police in 2019 was up 50 per cent on the number seized five years ago.
Whoever would have thought the gang members didn't hand them in during the gun buyback programme? National said traditional policing methods wouldn't work because these were not your good old fashioned criminals. These new gang members were forged in the far hotter fires of Australia's underworld and they take no prisoners.
Bridges was mocked mercilessly by Labour for referencing Strike Force Raptor – in a speech to the House, the late, unlamented Iain Lees-Galloway said the idea was inspired by Bridges going to his happy place when he was a wee lad sitting on the living room floor, watching Transformers. Little Simon saw the Dinobots and they were a rogue strike force that would go out and beat up the Decepticon gang and cause lots of grief. On and on he went, and how his Labour colleagues roared with laughter.
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Only now Lees-Galloway is gone (just on that, he should have lost his portfolio for incompetence but he shouldn't have lost his job for an affair) and Labour realised that actually, it IS going to need a rogue strike force of Dinobots because the Decepticons ARE getting out of control.
This week, the Government, through the Police Commissioner, has announced Operation Tauwhiro, where police will target gangs and gang-related activity over the next six months.
I don't exactly know how they'll be targeted given that oiks on bikes were able to take over the city's motorways and roads over Waitangi Weekend. Why didn't the police arrest them, law-abiding citizens wanted to know? Because there's been a directive from the Police Commissioner, telling officers they cannot give chase if anybody runs from them – especially if they're on a motorbike. So yeah – going to be a little bit tricky to put the fear of God into gangstas if the gangstas know they can give you the middle finger and there's precious little you can do about it.
However, given that Tauwhiro means to tend or care for as a verb in Māori, or social worker if it's a noun, putting the fear of God into gangstas is probably not what this police initiative is about. Bloody hell. Give me a Strike Force Raptor any day over an Operation Tend and Nurture when it comes to the gangs.
If I was a betting woman, I would say that when Operation Tend and Nurture is over in six months, there'll be a couple of high profile perp walks of blinged-out gangstas (whom the head honchos will have sacrificed for the greater gangsta good) and spectacular footage of gold-plated performance vehicles being loaded on to tow trucks.
The Government will proclaim it a huge success and the Police Commissioner will praise his task force. And during that six months, the gangs will have survived and thrived and laughed all the way to the bank. You want to try being kind with the new breed of gang members? Let's just see how that works out, shall we?