Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Kerre Woodham: Gang Patch Crackdown Will Send a Message

As promised, the coalition government has announced legislation designed to make life just a little bit tougher for gangs.

They are not the first government to try and control the range and the breadth and the strength of the various gangs in this country, they are unlikely to be the last.

As far back as 1972, Labour leader Norm Kirk promised in the run up to the election that he would take the bikes off the bikies. Very un-Labour, but that's what he promised at the time -a promise which actually proved legally impossible to implement.

The courts have stood in the way of many a government's good intentions. So he promised to take the bikes off the bikies, unable to do so, his government introduced legislation in 1973, that was aimed at the gangs trying to prohibit unlawful assembly.

Further legislation in 1976 enabled the confiscation of vehicles used to commit offences. But along with the stick came the carrot, and that's what I'm hoping to see as well.

That is something that Christopher Luxon said they would do, that they would make it tough for gangs, but they would do everything they could to help gang members who wanted to leave, leave, and work with community groups to try and prevent gangs from recruiting young people.

In the 70s, government schemes tried to hinder gang recruitment by helping underachieving students get into jobs when they left school. They also provided fun and games in the form of recreational and sporting activities outside of school, sort of blue light light discos but for the big kids to try and see that there was an alternative way of life.

In the mid 70s, work cooperatives for adult gang members were set up. Now you'll probably remember these, but if you're of a certain age because that's when Muldoon came in and in the mid 80s, millions of dollars was given to gang collectives for work related activities. Millions. Most funds, to be fair, went to genuine projects in some cases, in a shocking revelation, they supported extravagant clubhouse renovations and opulent lifestyles. If only we'd had social media back in the day, nothing would have changed.

The abuse of the schemes resulted in their cancellation in 1987.

Interventionist approaches have always been tried along with the 70s and 2006. Youth workers put on services for high risk young people and families, parenting information support programs aimed at reconnecting youths with their culture that spread throughout the country.

Then along came Michael laws and in 2009 at Wanganui District Council passed a bylaw banning gang patches in the city. Other cities said right, we're on to that too. But in 2011, a High Court judge found the bylaw to be unlawful on human rights grounds.

None the less gang regalia was banned from places like schools, swimming pools and government buildings in 2013. So it can be done, but there needs to be a willingness, I guess, to do it.

So since the 70s, we can see we've tried to a) prevent at-risk kids from joining gangs, b) tried to offer alternative pathways for gang members to leave if they wish and c) we've tried to make it tough for gang members to do their business, nothing unusual here.

So the last Labour administration adopted the Rob Muldoon approach to it - to work with gangs, give them a seat at the table, treat them with respect ,treat them as equals. Did that work? Did they respond with respect and a desire to work with the community? Not really, no. All it did was give the gangs their cojones to do exactly as they wished.

It used to grind my gears (a lot used to grind my gears during lockdown so maybe I was overreacting), but it used to grind my gears when you'd see funerals and tangi rules under lockdown with everyone else but not gang members. No, no. They would have convoys and leaning out of their cars and gathering in far more than 50 people. Televised, didn't give a fat rat's arse.

Borders - they were for other people. Any criticism of gang activity was greeted with accusations of racism and claims that they had every right to have their views and wishes heard, which they thought they did because they were being treated by the previous administration as though they had a right to exist and conduct their business as they wished.

Unfortunately, a lot of their business is illegal. I would have no problem with gangs and patches whatsoever if they were engaged in legitimate business. Many associates of gang members are, but ultimately the business of gangs is to muscle each other for turf and then sell drugs. That's where you get your big bucks. You don't get it by selling organically grown apples and kumara by the roadside. You know that's where you get your big bucks.

Law abiding citizens were starting to get a little bit sick of the posturing and jockeying for position conducted by various gangs and full view of the public so National promised to crack down. And it’s started. Six gold plated Harleys, once owned by the Comancheros were crushed on the weekend. And new legislation will be introduced, going one further than the Wanganui District Council, banning gang patches in public and giving police extra powers to stop gang members congregating.

Again, this is posturing, this time on the part of the government. Will it immediately stop into gang warfare? No. Will it end the production and sale of meth? No.

But what it's saying is sending a very strong message that we are sick of seeing you wearing your advertising for your brand on your back. We're sick of you behaving exactly as you wish, stating your intentions loud and clear with your patches on your back saying this is who we are, this is what we do, tremble in fear.

If you want to wear your little blazers and your jackets in your little club rooms, you fill your steel cap boots. Yeah, that's what club rooms are for.

Dressing up and talking nonsense and bigging yourself up. You do that. It's what lots of people do in club rooms. But I don't want to see, right up in my grills, your pride and your lawlessness.

Kerre McIvor, is a journalist, radio presenter, author and columnist. Currently hosts the Kerre Woodham mornings show on Newstalk ZB - where this article was sourced.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if they sit around at Waitangi Tribunal meetings agonising about what to do with the gangs? It beggars belief that pompous fat-cat Maori can sit around pontificating about their rights and blissfully ignore any responsibility for their own.

Doug Longmire said...

Well Said, Kerre !!
Banning patches won't solve the problem, but at least it is a step on the way.
More bike etc seizures under the Proceeds of Crime legislation would also be a big deterrent.

Jared Savage's book - Gangland - describes in detail just what a major problem the meth importation is becoming. This aspect needs tackling urgently.