IT IS FASHIONABLE, in some quarters, to sneer at political parties who advance the issues of law and order in an election year. As if it is not one of the prime duties of the state to ensure that its citizens live in peace and safety. With more than two dozen gang-related drive-by shootings dominating (entirely justifiably) the headlines of the past few weeks, there would be something amiss with our democracy if at least one major political party did not raise the issues of law and order in the most aggressive fashion.
The National Party has done just that and, over the weekend, spelt out in some detail how it proposes to address the rising level of gang-related violence. For the most part the measures announced: banning the public wearing of gang patches; passing non-consorting legislation; issuing immediate dispersal orders; and empowering the Police to undertake unwarranted firearms searches/seizures; have been borrowed from the Australian states – most particularly, Western Australia.
National’s Police spokesperson, Mark Mitchell, insists that these measures have proved to be highly effective against the Australian gangs. Criminologists and lawyers beg to differ: arguing that the principal effect of this kind of highly intrusive law enforcement is to drive the gangs ever deeper underground. Meaningful engagement with the authorities is rendered even more difficult, and there is an amping-up of the aggro between the “outlaws” and “law-abiding” citizens.
The banning of gang patches, for example, is unlikely to slow down gang members for very long. The most obvious workaround for such a ban would be to substitute the wearing of coloured items for the banned patches. For many years, those associating themselves with the Mongrel Mob have worn red, while their traditional rivals, Black Power, have favoured blue. Any number of indicators might be used to denote a member’s position in the gang hierarchy: bandannas, tattoos, hats, belts, boots. It is hard to see how Parliament could ban the wearing of particular colours or items of clothing without inspiring all manner of legal challenges.
Laws forbidding certain classes of persons from consorting with one another have a long history. The rationale behind such laws is that since most serious crimes require careful organisation and planning, making it a criminal offence for known felons to be found in each other’s company would render the orchestration of criminal activity especially difficult. Australia’s anti-consorting laws not only make it illegal for criminals to communicate face-to-face, but also electronically. Telephoning, texting and e-mailing are verboten, along with social-media messaging and online meetings courtesy of Skype and Zoom.
The issuing of immediate dispersal orders, and the carrying out unwarranted firearm searches and seizures, raise all manner of health and safety objections. It would be a very brave collection of constables that would order a couple of hundred patched gang-members en route to a fallen brother’s funeral to turn their Harley-Davidsons around an go home. How, exactly, would they respond if the gang leader did a quick head-count of the officers present and politely informed them to stick their dispersal order where the sun don’t shine?
“Or you’ll what?”, is the oldest question in law enforcement. (Or politics, for that matter.) Throw a search for unlawful firearms into the situation described above and the potential for serious – even fatal – violence rises exponentially. Simple prudence would suggest that before attempting such measures the Police would first have to assemble an enforcement body of sufficient size and fearsomeness to give even the staunchest gang leader pause.
What’s more, such a force would have to be available more-or-less instantaneously. It took the NZ Police upwards of a week to assemble the 250-500 police officers needed to clear Parliament Grounds of its anti-vaccination protesters. Gang members are not going to sit on the side of the road for a week while the Police assemble a force equal to the task of disarming and dispersing them!
Building-up such a force is not impossible, but it will require a lot of officers, a lot money and a lot of time. What’s more, the existence of such a highly-trained and fearsomely-armed company of Police Praetorians may prove to be no less disconcerting than the gangs they were created to eliminate! Add to this unease the Bill of Rights ramifications of National’s draconian law enforcement proposals, and the chances of their early introduction are slim.
With the National Party Opposition so far declining to confirm the dramatic increase in Police numbers and resources required to implement its tough anti-gang policies, taking its promises seriously is rather difficult. More knee-jerk than needful, perhaps?
To make an appreciable dent in the gang phenomenon, it is necessary to address its principal raison d’être – the making of money. Risking injury, incarceration and death makes sense only when presented with the prospect of massive profits. Eliminating this incentive may be accomplished in two ways: Politicians can reduce the demand for illicit substances and/or services by legalising them. Or, law enforcement agencies can reduce dramatically the supply of these substances/services. This can be achieved by seizing the product, arresting the suppliers, smashing the distribution system, or, preferably, managing to do all three at the same time.
If this is your strategy, then it is brains you need, not brawn. The key to interdicting and reducing the supply of illegal substances/services is intelligence. Law enforcement needs to know where it is coming from and when, who will be carrying it and uplifting it, where it will be stored, and who will be organising its distribution. Discover these facts, and supply cannot help but be disrupted. What’s more, the management structure of the organised criminal enterprises involved will be seriously damaged. Two birds, one stone.
Disrupting supply in this way can be achieved in three ways: by persuading well-informed gangsters to inform on their confederates; by infiltrating undercover operatives into the heart of the criminal organisation; and by using state-of-the-art electronic surveillance techniques to intercept the communications of the criminal organisation. Preferably, all three of the techniques will be used by the Police. Certainly, this was how the five Mafia families of New York were brought down by the FBI in the 1980s.
The drive-by shootings currently plaguing Auckland are a reflection of a supply operation that has grown either too loose or too tight. Control of “the corners” (as they used to say in the TV series The Wire) is being contested by The Tribesmen and The Killer Beez because there is either an over-supply of product and one gang is attempting to seize the entire market for itself, or, there is a shortage of product and the two gangs are competing for the corners (distribution points) because until one or the other controls the lot, their respective operations will become increasingly unprofitable.
The National Party Opposition would be better employed talking to the Police Commissioner about the best ways to hack the communications of the distributors as well as the suppliers of illegal substances and services. It is difficult to shoot up somebody’s house if you are intercepted en route, your weapons confiscated, and you are sent down for criminal conspiracy to commit murder for five years.
In the immortal words of Sun Tzu: “Foreknowledge cannot be gotten from ghosts and spirits, cannot be had by analogy, cannot be found out by calculation. It must be obtained from people, people who know the conditions of the enemy.”
Gang violence will not be ended by politicians getting tougher, but by police officers getting smarter.
This essay was originally posted on the Interest.co.nz website on Monday, 13 June 2022.
Interesting how so many of those that were demanding the police beat up the parliamentary protestors, for taking up some lawn space, are now demanding the gangs need to be treated with respect and talked to. Even though they are terrorising some neighborhoods. Could it be because these same people live in leafy cul-de-sacs, far away from the shootings. There is no impact on their morning latte, soy only please.
Interesting how so many of those that were demanding that the Parliamentary protesters be treated with kid gloves in spite of the fact that they were vandalising the grounds of Parliament and assaulting for threatening passers by, now want gang members to be shot on sight. I've no idea where they live or what they drink, but I would admire them a bit more if they volunteered to do the shooting themselves.
The Nats are just indulging themselves in their time honoured populist nonsense. We derided Trump but the Nats proposals are pure Trumpism. Its just the messenger that is the difference. What a tragedy we fall for it...again and again.
You say ... revealingly and appropriately ...
Quote: "IT IS FASHIONABLE, in some quarters, to sneer at political parties who advance the issues of law and order in an election year. As if it is not one of the prime duties of the state to ensure that its citizens live in peace and safety".
If the "beat up" media heeded this, that is; a government's prime duty-axiom of good order peace and safety... then the rhetoric would disappear and the soft on crime stance by Labour would be judged for the crock it is with Police less hesitant enforcing the law.
Even now with Poto gone and Chippie behind the wheel of the "I" car, Labour has the herculean task of convincing the electorate that they are suddenly-miraculously tough on crime. By this (changing horses & bowing to the Opposition's assault) their credibility will further be eroded.
Too late for a rehabilitation in the eyes of the public in time for the up coming election?
Apart from their patches, their motorbikes, and often illegal use, are their other most outward demonstration of public intimidation. Unless I'm mistaken, a majority of gang members don't have a legal income sufficient to afford these machines, which, new, can be upwards of $40,000. They all have to be purchased initially from dealers, so dealers should be put under the spotlight to ensure that those they are selling to have legimtimate funds - mind you, this would capture all purchasers, gang members or not. Same with cars, etc. If the gang members can't buy vehicles, then half their lifestyle and mobility will just disappear. Further, if any machine they have is under hire purchase, have a law that if a gang member is shown to have used illegal funds for the purchase, then the vehicle is siezed by the Crown with no recompense to the dealer. That would make dealers cautious who they sell to - may tank the value of any Harley Davidson franchise....
You suggest National talking to the Police Commissioner. Last I heard Poto Williams refused to allow National access to the Commissioner. Perhaps Hipkins will be more accommodating
Brute force, or intelligence (in every sense of the word).
The National Party proposal serves to indicate the paucity of rational thinking among those who seek a solution to illegal gang activities. Group think and calculated to win votes at the election, nothing more.
Chris’s suggestion of penetrating the gangs and using intelligence to interdict and eliminate their activities is the only solution. Witness Bletchley Park.
There is one thing for sure - either the current outburst of shootings and ram raids etc has to be stopped or we will proceed down the US style of law ie: everyone is armed. The police legally armed and members of society both legally and illegally armed.
It seems to me that the softly softly approach wont work. Ask school principals about vaping at school (its illegal under 18) - its out of control and there are no consequences. What do you think this lot will do when theure 25 or 30.
Im afraid there are no options in some cases to some banging together of some heads- sometimes with much vigour.
Anonymous 13.49 - specious comment from you! It is necessary to think of before, present and what will likely happen and then after the force's operation. Will the action solve the problem or just exacerbate it? (Sorry about the unfamiliar words, you might not have read widely enough to have seen them before. Look up in google dict., book etc.)
Chris - two words from the post stand out to me 'Simple Prudence'. They are very weighted in importance. Simple as politicians and others responsible, to the background ofgangs, listening and responding appropriately and positively to advice about the background of kids in gangs to reduce entrant numbers. Simple in mind for politicians and others refusing to be exercised about dealing with the underlying matters such as kids not getting support and care at home and good role models for social control, which should have come from parents who are often struggling with poverty, lack of support from agencies, and the effect of peer pressure on youngsters, and the insidious effects of negative stories on television and now tech devices and social media.
Supporting parents and treating them as important people to society from babyhood and up would take away some of the bad childhood imprinting leading to youngsters becoming gang options. Giving families opportunities for short holidays together at adventure camps where the parents go to meetings and talk about their needs in raising their kids; not being lectured but talking within the group about problems and with an experienced family-oriented facilitator, different ways to handle children's behaviour at different ages, using practical methods and not authority-heavy ones.
For instance, I would like to have heard how other parents dealt with the stealing from my kid's school locker - an expensive pair of sports shoes bought to try to match the others outfit level. (Why it is good to have school uniforms.)
The other word was Prudence - Spending $1 now to save $100 later - has been pointed out to politicians but the economic side so clearly obvious has not convinced them and I think they don't actually care enough about ordinary people's welfare to bother about future costs to the state and to the unhappy individuals resulting from poor upbringing. SEP they think. Also a good society doesn't grow without care; but their minds are too focussed on people they consider of quality. The others are merely lower class with few redeeming virtues; making a class society with no impulse for equality or equity, just empty historical fantasies, 'the classless society'. So that's why no prudence. The outcomes of people falling and failing from lack of direction and care early in their lives are dismissed by pollies etc. No health and safety anxiety for the most vulnerable - prudence be damned.
From Sunday Morning, 4:07 pm on 29 November 2020
Believe it or not another researcher on gangs in NZ named - Jared Savage.
New Zealand now has one of the most lucrative illicit drug markets in the world. In his new book Gangland, NZ Herald investigative reporter Jared Savage explores the country's growing underbelly of organised crime and violent gangs...
There's been an evolution and an amplification in organised crime over the past 20 years, he says...
Other experts have told RNZ the meth trade is largely being fed not by the traditional widely known gangs within New Zealand, but by bad actors within those gangs. Savage agrees with that.
"Basically individuals within gangs, who may or may not have other patched members underneath them who they can direct, or associates of the gang who they can use to further their own ends, whether that's cooking meth or receiving packages coming in, or laundering money.
"I don't think there's 10 Headhunters sitting around a table somewhere plotting, as in the Sons of Anarchy [TV programme], I think there are individuals who use the Headhunters patch, or the Mongrel Mob path, or the Tribesmen patch, or whatever it is, to achieve their goals of making money, that's what a lot of it is.
"It's not just patched gang members, this book is about Asian organised crime syndicates, different businessmen who've become involved, we've now got the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa cartel, sending methamphetamine and cocaine over...
The newer groups that have come in, from Australia, Comancheros and Mongol Nation, the Bandidos, I put them in a slightly different category. Particularly those that have been deported here. I would say that they are an organised criminal group and that they do exist to make money and do what they want to do."..
The deportees who have brought back a new scale of gangs from Australia...have introduced a level of corruption not seen before, he adds.
"New Zealand really prides itself as having quite a corruption-free reputation, and to a large extent that is still true. I don't think we have systemic corruption within our police, or parts of the police or customs, but there's definitely been a bit of an upswing in people who are selling secrets or are helping these groups to facilitate their business.
In [one] case, Customs had singled out a container to be searched, because it was linked to members of the Mongols gang, a US group who have come into Australia through deportees. But when officials arrived to search the container the next morning it had disappeared, after being transported away from the port in the middle of the night, by a person working at the port who police believe was working with the gang.
"And it turned out [the port worker had] $90,000 or $100,000 sitting in a shoe box, when police turned up.
"I think that was quite a wake-up call really, here's a relatively new gang in New Zealand .. It's the sort of stuff you see in the movies really, but you are seeing it here more and more."
Savage says gang members are rising, and there's a strong pull created when those involved flash around large amounts of cash and lush lifestyles, especially if times are tough.
"The three years up until December last year we'd had a 50 percent increase in gang member numbers, to more than 7000."
See if this is a step forward:
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