New Zealand's got gangs galore. Just recently we had multiple allegations of egregious predation by gang members in the very heart of the capital.
These particular gang members had been operating under the radar for quite some time — right under the noses of the nation's legislators and top civil administrators, including police and justice agencies.
In fact, the gang had infiltrated these very institutions, using them as cash cows to fund all manner of successful gang operations.
The gang members' modus operandi included sexual exploitation of young females, usually involving excessive consumption of highly addictive drugs. These nefarious activities only came to light when some former gang prospects decided to lay formal complaints.
The gang in question calls itself Russell McVeagh — "Widely regarded as New Zealand's premier law firm", according to its own website.
Russell McVeagh requires new prospects to have legal training, and — as events have shown — some were also expected by certain gang seniors to undergo humiliating and abusive initiation rites.
The young females were mainly student law clerks seeking work experience, and the drug of choice was alcohol. Dame Margaret Bazley's subsequent condemnatory report was very explicit.
The word "gang" has several connotations, but one definition is simply a group organised for a common purpose ... not necessarily criminal.
For instance, tickets are now available for the Auckland Central Gang Show — not a bikies' hui, but a variety show featuring Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.
We're aware of the finance company gangs which devastated tens of thousands of citizens' lives by misappropriating funds.
Other white collar gangs are estimated to be defrauding (i.e. stealing) billions of dollars annually, with overall economic crime at about $10 billion. That's more than twice the combined budgets of police, Corrections, and the courts, and more than the total net profit of the top 200 companies and top 30 financial institutions.
So-called benefit fraud amounts to but a small fraction of this sum.
At the other end of the gangland spectrum to Russell McVeagh, certainly much mischief transpires.
Recent figures suggest that, while (bikie) gang violence is decreasing, gang membership continues to rise. Perhaps that's no accident — analysis shows most gang members have suffered highly dysfunctional formative years, and the attraction of the gang (shared values and mutual support) remains enduring.
Most new recruits are there simply because they want to belong ... somewhere, anywhere.
Many also admit they'd trade it all tomorrow for what most other Kiwis also aspire to — a regular (legal) means to provide for themselves and family.
During the course of prison work, I asked one inmate what, if any, employment he had lined up.
"Oh, I'll just go back to selling 'P'," was his response. "With my record, who'd employ me? How else can I feed the family?"
Most gang members are caught in similar traps. Circuit-breakers are required.
Denis O'Reilly, a life member of Black Power, but also highly respected advocate for gang rehabilitation, succinctly addresses the issue: "We will always have gangs," he says. "But why not make them work gangs?"
His comments were with regard to the ridiculous situation in places like Hawke's Bay, where he lives, where growers are crying out for workers despite thousands of locals being officially unemployed.
"It's a pathway with measures of moral persuasion and sense of purpose where the success stories become those of both the team and the individual," he says.
In the best traditions of poacher-turned-gamekeeper, perhaps elite squads from various bikie gangs could also accompany IRD inspectors doing their rounds in the corporate community, to assist in the more accurate calculation of tax obligations.
Sometimes people can gang up for the very best of reasons.