Time to ban the gangs
Todd McClay – National MP for Rotorua
Gangs are a scourge on New Zealand society and do harm everywhere they operate.
In many pockets throughout New Zealand they continue to terrorise law-abiding citizens.
They only exist to steal, assault, harass and intimidate. They serve no useful purpose. They are responsible for the drug trade and profit from pushing poisons on our children.
In 2008, we were elected to get tough on crime. We brought in tougher bail laws, no parole for the worst offenders, and tougher sentences.
We put more police on the beat and gave police more tools to target criminals. We improved support for victims. The results speak for themselves. Crime is at a 30-year low in New Zealand.
Police estimate there are 3,500 patched gang members in New Zealand.
Gangs actively prey on vulnerable young people to recruit them to their criminal causes, and then ruin their lives.
This small minority causes misery for far more people than their small numbers might suggest. While the rest of us recoil at what their gang patches represent, gang members wear their patches as badges of honour that they are committing crimes and getting away with it.
Last year I introduced a Members Bill to Parliament to ban gang insignia from government and council offices, including public schools, hospitals, kindergartens and play-centres.
The Bill was modelled on the Wanganui District Council legislation which banned gang insignia in Wanganui.
When I was elected as Rotorua’s MP I quickly became aware of the harm gangs cause in our communities. In January 2009, 16-year-old Jordan Herewini was murdered by a gang member in Murupara for wearing the wrong colour school shirt.
Later that year, Kaine Lewis was murdered after violence between rival Mongrel Mob and Tribesman gang members. In 2010, a 4-year-old boy in Whakatane was abused by a Black Power affiliate in a public park, and had his shirt ripped from him, because he wore the wrong colour.
These are just the headline stories. We don’t read about the fear of an elderly pensioner when she is confronted by a group of Killer Beez members loitering in a car park. We don’t hear about the vulnerability of a disabled person when he is confronted by a Mongrel Mob member in a WINZ office. We don’t hear about the outrage of a recently burgled-family when they see Head Hunters bragging that they have victimised more people by wearing their patches at a school gala.
Those stories are real and all too common. I hear them from people I meet all around the country. Victims of crime have had enough of gangs and the harm they cause. Since launching my bill to target gangs I have reviewed emails and letters from many, many people whose lives have been shattered by thugs and criminals who hide behind a patch.
The Law and Order Select Committee, which is deliberating on my Bill, has finished hearing submissions. I was very pleased to get the support of Kawerau District Council and Murupara Area School. Many council workers feel intimidated when confronted by patched gang members at the counter. Schools understand the poisonous effects on children when criminals celebrate their patches as if they were proper role models. The Whitireia Community Law Centre, which works at the coalface of justice issues in Porirua City, gave a very moving submission about how the community is crying out for sensible measures to tackle gangs head-on.
The results in Wanganui were very positive. Gang membership fell, the public felt less intimidated, and there were fewer confrontations between gangs. In short, targeting gangs, by making it harder for them to commit crime, and harder for them to show pride in their criminal activities, works.
There have been opponents to my Bill. Labour’s Phil Goff talked tough in Government as a Labour Party minister saying he wanted to ban gangs but sadly it was all talk.
Labour Justice spokesman Charles Chauvel refuses to do anything to support getting tough on gangs when in opposition. I feel sorry for Labour’s Kris Fa’afoi. As their police spokesperson, he sees the harm gangs do in his own electorate of Mana.
Chris must remember the promise he made to his voters to put their interests first.
Unfortunately for him the out-of-touch people who write Labour’s law and order policies refuse to support any measures that will help us fight gangs.
Hone Harawira called me a racist for wanting to reduce the harm that gangs cause. At least Hone is consistent in his defence of crime, by continually making excuses and blaming everything on race.
As an MP his attitude is a disgrace. Both the Labour Party and Hone are out of touch with what communities are asking politicians, to do.
My bill is not the only tool to make the public feel safer, but it is an important additional one. Along with the measures we have introduced that reduce crime, it will make a difference. It will send a clear signal to gangs at least some of us in Parliament are willing to put vicqtims’ rights before those of criminals.