COMMENT

We have a major issue with gangs in this country which is now snowballing out of control.

A large brawl with baseball bats yesterday, comes on top of all the other gang incidents we've seen in recent weeks.

I've written three times already this year about gangs, and it's only February.

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But it feels somehow like the Government is more interested in cycle lanes than it is gangs.

So how on earth are we here?

Why is gang violence escalating and getting worse, everybody acknowledges that's the case, and yet it just continues.

At what point does someone go, wait a minute, this approach where we sigh and say, "oh not everyone in a gang is a bad person", is not working. We have to get tougher and stronger. We have to forget for now all the "get alongside them" talk, and actually take some action.

Otherwise, this runs a very real risk of becoming an election issue that the Government just does not need.

Its approach to gangs is much like its approach to child abusers in this country, "let's get alongside them".

Actually, no, let's not. Because they're not interested in getting alongside anyone, or being responsible for their actions, or obeying any laws, or indeed even having a chat.
They're lawless, and selfish and not interested in your hand-holding.

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At a recent "peace talks" event between the Mongols and the Mongrel Mob, it was reported that as a senior leader of the Mongrel Mob began airing his grievances, the Mongols leader interrupts him to say, "I don't give an F".

Does that give you a pretty good and clear picture of the level of interest these gangs have in chat? Or peace talks? Or being gotten alongside? I mean when do we wake up?

I'm not saying this is the Government's fault, it's not. Gangs gave been around for decades and they've been a blight on our society and a headache for many governments.

And solving the gang problem isn't easy because you can't just keep throwing them in jail, although tempting.

Kate Hawkesby. Photo / Michael Craig
Kate Hawkesby. Photo / Michael Craig

It's addressing the deeper issues around drugs and guns and violence, and poverty. We know you have to break up the gang culture and make it less attractive.

National often points out there's been a 26 per cent increase in gang members on this Government's watch but the Police Minister's rebuttal to that is they've promised "millions of dollars to fund dedicated staff to investigate organised crime and the meth trade".

Promising and throwing money at problems doesn't always solve them.

But with an election looming, with the people of Tauranga and Hawke's Bay absolutely fed up and, by all accounts, not even feeling safe in their own streets, the Government's going to have to come up with something effective, and fast.