Monday 13 June 2022

Macho chest-beating won’t tame the gangs, but Poto Williams’ “softly, softly” approach just might.

Misdirection: New Zealanders see burly gang members, decked out in their patches, sitting astride their deafening motorcycles, cruising six abreast down the motorway as frightened civilians scramble to get out of their way, and they think these guys are the problem. Fact is, these guys represent little more than the misdirection of the criminal magicians no one ever gets to see.

THE GROWING CHORUS calling for Poto Williams to be sacked as Police Minister bespeaks a fundamental misreading of her performance. We are so used to bumptious males like Stuart Nash and Mark Mitchell holding (or seeking) this portfolio that we read Williams’ “softly, softly” approach as a sure-fire indication of failure. But, since when did inflated male chests, bombastic claims and political humbug ever bring about anything more useful than inflated poll-ratings? Since we have seen this noisy “Laura Norder” pantomime repeated over and over again, we can say with some confidence that it makes next to no impact on crime.

My impression of Williams is that she has spent the last 18 months searching desperately through all the available research/data for something that just might help her make a real difference. But, seeking to base government policy on something more substantial than rabid right-wing reckons is the very last thing an ambitious Police Minister should be doing. The tried and true methodology is to get the voters’ blood up with rhetoric red in tooth and claw. Then, while you’re doing that, task your officials with finding out what rabid right-wing police ministers overseas have settled upon as their solution to rising crime – and steal it.

Chances are that the real-world effects of these “solutions” will be pretty close to zero. But, since the research/data only proves their ineffectuality after a two-to-five year time-lag, this is of no political consequence. The voters have already watched the launch of the Government’s getting tough on crime initiatives on the six o’clock news, dutifully bumped the ruling party’s poll-ratings up a couple of percentage points, and then forgotten all about it – until the next crime wave. In response to which the entire pantomime will be re-staged. Same script, different actors.

What most people simply don’t understand is how sophisticated criminal offending has become. They see the burly gang members, decked out in their patches, sitting astride their deafening motorcycles, cruising six abreast down the motorway as frightened civilians scramble to get out of their way, and they think these guys are the problem. Fact is, these guys represent little more than the misdirection of the criminal magicians no one ever gets to see. While rival gangs are shooting up each other’s neighbourhoods, draining-off Police resources and thoroughly terrifying the public, core criminal business continues to be conducted largely unmolested.

The Guardian of 7 June reports the existence, in Australia, of “thousands” of members of the Italian Mafia, or, more specifically, the ‘Ndrangheta of Calabria. (That’s the “toe” of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula.) Hiding in plain sight in ordinary suburban communities, looking like any other Aussie, upwards of 5,000 of these criminals have been quietly plying their illegal trade for decades. According to the Australian Associated Press: “The Calabrian mafia work with other organised crime groups including bikie gangs and Asian or Middle Eastern crime groups to cooperate on drug importation, money laundering and violence.”

“It’s entirely possible that people will be living next door to members of the ‘Ndrangheta without knowing,” the Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Nigel Ryan, informed the media. “They’ve been able to stay under the radar while living modest lives in modest homes. They funnelled the illegitimate wealth into their legitimate construction, agricultural and catering businesses. In many ways, I would say that the ‘Ndrangheta are actually the ones pulling the strings of other organised crime groups, particularly the more violent groups, such as outlaw motorcycle gangs.”

As The Daily Blog’s Editor, Martyn Bradbury, has been telling his readers for many years, Australia’s harsh immigration regime is sending hundreds of New Zealand-born members or associates of these same violent outlaw motorcycle gangs across the Tasman as deportees. These “501s” have fundamentally changed the way New Zealand gangs do business, introducing a level of violence that had not hitherto been a feature of indigenous gang culture. It would be naïve in the extreme to assume that at least some of the ‘Ndrangheta’s string-pullers have not crossed the Tasman with them.

The Aussies run our largest banks, so why not our largest criminal enterprises? (If you’ll pardon the tautology!)

The same Guardian article also makes reference to the extraordinary law enforcement coup that saw organised criminals around the world avail themselves of a supposedly unbreakable encryption app called “ANoM”. Little did the crooks know that their every conversation, every text, every e-mail, every JPEG was being copied to the international law-enforcement inventors of ANoM.

“Officers gathered intelligence from the ANoM app to understand how transnational serious organised crime syndicates – including the ‘Ndrangheta – operate and communicate.”

Just how serious is the ‘Ndrangheta? According to Assistant Commissioner Ryan, Calabria’s organised criminals are “responsible for 70 to 80% of the world’s cocaine and they are flooding Australia with illicit drugs ….. They are pulling the strings of Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs who are behind some of the most significant violence in our communities.”

Ultimately, it is the sort of intelligence gathering exemplified by ANoM that will provide the Police with the information they need to push back against the criminal organisations already well-ensconced in New Zealand. If New Zealand’s Police Commissioner, Andrew Coster, is not working closely with Police Minister Poto Williams on this method of bringing not only the local outlaw motorcycle gangs, but also, their Calabrian, Columbian, Mexican, Chinese and Australian string-pullers into New Zealand courtrooms, then he bloody well should be! Undercover operatives and state-of-the-art electronic surveillance have been the key to the apprehension of organised criminals since the 1980s. “Eyes of Mordor” they might have been, but they brought down the Five Families.

Christopher Luxon and Mark Mitchell would do well to ponder the possibility that the recent spate of drive-by shootings may actually be intended to divert Police resources away from the string-pullers. In calling for Poto Williams’ head, they may be doing the very thing that would most assist the real criminal masterminds. If this is the case, then a sudden reduction in drive-by shootings will not be a sign of Police success, but proof that the wise-guys are once again conducting their criminal enterprises in the preferred manner.

Quietly, without being noticed.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 9 June 2022.


Unknown said...

Poto's Softly softly is already in place, Chris,. Maori and Pacific in poor suburbs are suffering, We are talking the Sopranos and and not Kapa Haka groups,; In Auckland Labour will be perceived as having made it's choice.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Laura Norder– The good old go to of right-wing governments when they need a stick to beat the left with. Tell you what, why don't we look around the world and find out governments/societies that have managed to, if not overcome the gang problem then minimise it, and do what they did? Although I suspect such countries would have a damn sight better safety net than New Zealand – but even so.