The New Zealand Police Association says new measures to tackle gangs and intimidating behaviour are a “solid start” in the nation’s war on gang activity.
Association President, Chris Cahill says the measures show that the Government is listening to Police and has picked up on several key concerns around gang intimidation and illegal gang accumulation of wealth.
“The Association agrees with the move to introduce new targeted warrant and additional search powers to find and seize weapons from gang members during a gang conflict,” he said.
“This would allow police in certain circumstances to execute warrants any time for up to 14 days.
“On the face of it, this is a positive addition to policing options, but we’d need to see the detail of the legislation to confirm its practicality.”
The Association has also welcomed a move designed to target large, intimidating and often dangerous gatherings by gangs and so-called “boy racers”.
“By increasing the number of offences under which police can impound vehicles for up to 28 days the government is obviously responding to recent gang events such as funerals where gang members take over public places, streets and highways, and the boy racers who regularly cause mayhem in communities throughout the country,” Mr Cahill says.
Another initiative the Association has welcomed is the response to the recent spate of drive-by shootings in the Auckland area.
“It makes sense to introduce a new offence under which a person is liable to up to five years’ imprisonment for discharging a gun with intent to intimidate,” Mr Cahill says.
“Currently the Crimes Act has an offence of committing a threatening act to intimidate someone, but only if the perpetrator and the victim are in the same dwelling. Clearly that is not applicable to drive-by shootings, so there is merit in this change in terms of policing such crimes.”
He said the Association has long been concerned about the overt display of wealth by many gang members and its effect on impressionable youth.
“Today’s tranche of initiatives makes a small start on addressing this issue by giving police the power to seize cash of more than $10,000 if there is no explanation for it,” Mr Cahill says.
“But again, the detail needs to be seen. The onus of proving the legitimacy of the cash must sit with the person who has it, and police can have it forfeited if there is no such proof. This sits well with prohibiting the use of cash for high-end purchases such as vehicles, boats and jewellery, which will make it much harder for organised crime groups to launder money.”
“The Association is pleased to see the commitment from the Justice Minister to work on the drivers of crime, including youth crime. These issues reach across many facets of New Zealand society and cannot be left for Police alone to sort out,” Mr Cahill said.