Thursday, May 23, 2024

Gangs crackdown to feature dedicated new Police units

Police Minister, Mark Mitchell has backed the establishment of a National Gang Unit and supporting district gang disruption units, saying they will help deliver on the Government’s pledge to crack down on criminal networks.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster today revealed plans to establish both national and frontline gang-focused units to combat offending and intimidation by gangs.

“Gang members commit a disproportionate amount of crime and harm in New Zealand, and particularly in the areas of serious assault, robberies, drug and firearms offences, and homicides,” said the Commissioner.

“Police has been working hard to combat the impact of gangs and organised crime groups in recent times, through targeted national and district operations, organised crime investigations, Offender Prevention Teams, and many other responses.

“A new National Gang Unit is to be established to enable the continuation of this work and build our operational capability further. The Unit will work with Police districts across the country, drawing on the successes of Operation Cobalt and other coordinated responses to gang funerals and other gang activity.”

The Commissioner said the national-level unit will support district-based staff to plan and coordinate enforcement, resources and Police responses.

Minister Mitchell said incoming legislation will also provide Police with new tools to respond to the harm caused by gangs.

“The National Gang Unit and Gang Disruption Units will bring to bear the highest levels of Police expertise in targeting and harassing gang members and make maximum use of new tools brought in by this Government to suppress and contain the misery that gangs cause,” he said.

“Gangs exist only to cause and perpetuate violence and misery in our communities. New Zealanders need only look at the fatal shooting in Ponsonby recently by a gang member to see the impact that a 73% increase in gang membership from 2017 to 2023 has had on violent crime in our communities.

“The establishment of a National Gang Unit extends on the work already done by Operation Cobalt and will build operational capability when combatting gangs.”

At a local level, new Gang Disruption Units will be dedicated district teams to help identify, target and catch priority offenders, and maintain a focused view of the gang environment.

“Policing gangs and serious offenders is an all-of-Police priority. The new gang units will boost our focus and capability, but they are not working alone – our whole frontline is involved in preventing the crime and harm caused by methamphetamine, organised crime, and gangs, whether through road policing, organised crime investigations, prosecutions, or prevention activity,” said Commissioner Coster.

“At a time in the world when safety and feeling safe is an evolving picture in many countries, New Zealand is still one of the safest countries to live. But the gang landscape is changing, and Police will continue to adapt to meet these challenges head-on.

“Ultimately, it’s about supporting our frontline to keep everyone safe and deliver the best results for our communities.

“Work to implement the National Gang Unit is currently underway. Once complete, the work of Operation Cobalt will be continued through the National Gang Unit.”

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