Twenty Mongrel Mob Riders chapter members and associates arrested, "substantial" amounts of cannabis and methamphetamine found, $1m worth of assets, including six cars, seized. Sahiban Hyde reports on the take-down of an alleged crime syndicate.
As most of Hawke's Bay focused on staying at home to save lives amid an encroaching pandemic, the region's Organised Crime Unit was hard at work.
Lockdown came into effect at the same time the specialist police unit, sometimes referred to as the "Gang Focus Unit" was in the final stages of Operation Casino.
The operation was set up to take down of what police allege was a crime syndicate with tentacles reaching across Hawke's Bay.
Five months of graft from 50 police officers had led to this point for Detective Inspector Mike Foster and his team.
With what they felt was compelling evidence, search warrants were granted, then on Monday, May 19, a team moved in.
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"It became apparent they had been dealing for quite some time," Foster said.
"It was a significant operation by the unit, targeting the sale of methamphetamine and cannabis by an organised crime group," Foster said.
"Just how little regard this group has for our community was again demonstrated during lockdown, as they continued with their illegal activities, with no care or concern for the very real risks their activities posed.
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"It was a big week, we got a great result."
The group Foster and his team targeted were mostly Mongrel Mob Riders, a chapter that has popped up as a newer extension of the gang in Hawke's Bay.
They ranged in ages from 18 to 46.
Most have appeared in court on serious drug and firearms charges, and have been remanded to appear at a later date for sentencing.
Sixteen arrests all came in one day. The last four in the days following were, in the words of Foster, "low-level offenders".
Police located a "substantial amount" of methamphetamine, cash, cannabis and 10 firearms in Napier and Hastings.
They also seized a number of assets including a house, six cars, motorbikes, and about $400,000 in cash.
"Organised crime is all about money," Foster said.
"Attacking the profits of organised criminal groups is a key part of our strategy to deter and disrupt their operations, and combat the illegal activities they're involved in."
He said organised crime groups caused considerable harm to Hawke's Bay.
"They are focused on making money through illegal activity and prey on the most vulnerable members of our community to do so," Foster said.
Who are the Mongrel Mob Riders?
The Mongrel Mob Riders Mc are touted as one of the newest offshoots of the Mongrel Mob gang.
Honorary Mongrel Mob life member of 47 years Harry Tam has worked with indigenous ethnic gangs and other hard-to-reach communities throughout the country and in prisons.
Tam said the Mongrel Mob Riders MC were a "gang within a gang".
"It's a fairly recent splinter of the Mongrel Mob. These splinters happen when leaders splinter off to make their own gangs," Tam said.
"Predominantly, gangs like Black Power and Mongrel Mob, national gangs, used to be based on turf. Now the gangs are also organised by their kaupapa, their interests, like the Riders."
He said gangs like the Riders were formed through "active recruitment".
"It is formed with the third generation of people who don't know anything about employment, are entrenched in poverty," he said.
"You then have a situation where there is a rapid growth of underclass seeking identity, and purpose and the gangs provide that. They substitute work by working in the black."
Gang expert and sociologist Jarrod Gilbert said the Riders Mc were part of the Mongrel Mob moving into outlawed motorcycle clubs, "reminiscent of the Hell's Angels".
"We are now seeing a rejuvenation of young people coming onto the gang scene."
Police Minister Stuart Nash said the chapter of those arrested did not make a difference.
"As far as I am concerned the Mob is the Mob and irrespective of any particular chapter, their patches remain banned from government and local government premises," Nash said.
"Police keep a close eye on developments in organised crime, and any gang members who step outside the law will be held to account."