The Minister of Police and Corrections, Anne Tolley, has launched a 'whole government plan on tackling gangs'.
Great, we need one and much of what is being proposed is good. She should be congratulated. What we don't need is to over-inflate the problem. Unfortunately, in an election year (of course), this is what has occurred.
The Minister says there are 4000 known gang members in New Zealand. She says that so far this year they are responsible* for 34 per cent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and adduction offences; 25 per cent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 per cent of grievous assault offences; and consequently 28 per cent of the prison population is gang members. Sounds bad, right? If we believe what we are told, gang members make up just 0.1 per cent of the population yet they are responsible for between a quarter and more than a third of these serious crimes.
Unfortunately, I suspect it's bollocks. More than that I'll bet on it.
I will eat a suitcase full of carrots in front of the fine Sociology Department at the University of Canterbury if this data are correct. I'll ask the Minister to do the same if I'm right.
Let's look at what we can prove, because inconveniently she has used specific offences that don't match with published data. Nevertheless, we are told that 28 per cent of the prison population are gang members. If we take the current prison population as 8500 that means 2380 of known gang members are currently behind bars. Whoa, that means 1620 free gang members are creating all of the carnage that the Minister has cited today.
Not only are the numbers wrong, they are widely inaccurate. Crazy inaccurate. If they're not I'll eat carrots.
Gangs are a problem, but to misrepresent the problem is just as bad. Law and government policy should be based on fact, not fiction. Throwing alarming statistics around in the buildup to an election is perhaps not surprising but it is certainly unacceptable. When the public see these frightening statistics of course they are going to accept whatever solution is offered. The unfortunate truth is that the statistics are blowing a problem into something it's not. Not even close. That being the case, the real problem is being hidden.
There is much to like about this policy initiative, and some things that are pretty average, but either way we should at least be presented with a factual picture. Somebody please ask the Minister to prove her numbers. Anybody. Let's just see the workings.
If the situation proves to be clear and accurate and I am wrong, then I will eat those carrots.
I am not wrong.