An all of government plan is aiming to tackle gangs:
Police and Corrections Minister Anne Tolley says the Government is taking action to tackle and prevent gang crime, to reduce the harm it causes to families and communities.
For the first time, a multi-agency approach involving intelligence-gathering, enhanced law enforcement, prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration will be adopted to address New Zealand gangs and transnational crime groups.
“The crime rate is at a 35-year low, recorded crimes have fallen by over 20 per cent in the past four years, and reoffending is down by over 12 per cent, so the time is right to focus on tackling gang crime, which causes disproportionate harm in our country,” says Mrs Tolley.
“We want to ensure that Police and other agencies have the tools they need to hold gangs to account, while breaking the cycle of offending by preventing young people from joining these organisations, and helping current members to exit gang life.
“As gangs continue to expand and adapt, law enforcement and legislation needs to be strengthened, while we also require a long-term plan to address what is a complex issue, to halt the intergenerational grip which gang life has on families, and to reduce the number of victims, both within these families and in the wider community.”
Known members of gangs comprise 0.1 per cent (4,000 people) of the population aged 17 and over, but in 2013 were responsible for 25 per cent of homicide related charges and in the first quarter of 2014 have been charged with:
34 per cent of class A/B drug offences
36 per cent of kidnapping and abduction offences
25 per cent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences
26 per cent of grievous assault offences
These gang members average 53 offences in their lifetime, and the 50 members with the highest number of charges average 229 charges each.
Almost half of serious offences by gang members are family violence related and, from a 2013 sample of 50 high risk gang members, 74 per cent of gang children have been abused or neglected on multiple occasions.
“The emotional cost to the victims of gang crime and to those affected by gang family violence is huge, as is the cost to the taxpayer, and we believe a new approach will be more effective in reducing the harm caused by gangs,” says Mrs Tolley.
Those are very compelling reasons for tackling gangs.
The whole of Government action plan addresses the issue through four initiatives:
A multi-agency Gang Intelligence Centre led by Police to collect and combine intelligence on real-time gang activity to support investigation, prevention and enforcement, while also identifying vulnerable children and family members who may need social service support. It will also identify young people at risk of joining gangs, so that agencies can target interventions to help steer them away from gang life.
Start at Home: a programme of work to refocus existing social initiatives, and develop some new programmes, to address the intergenerational nature of gang life, to support families and members turn away from the gang lifestyle, and to help support communities where there is a large gang presence, by reducing gang tension. It will also include enhanced prisoner reintegration and rehabilitation programmes by Corrections targeted at gang members, with access to violence and addiction services and support to access training, education, employment and housing, possibly in new locations away from gang life. Safety planning and support will also be provided to women with gang connections at risk of family violence on release from prison.
Two multi-agency Dedicated Enforcement Taskforces will be established. The Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Border Protection Taskforce will target drug trafficking networks to disrupt new gangs attempting to enter New Zealand and restrict and monitor international gang travel. The Criminal Asset Confiscation Taskforce will strengthen asset recovery efforts, prevent financing of crime and target profits received from crime.
Strengthen legislation: The Sentencing Act will be amended to allow courts to stipulate 24-hour GPS monitoring on high-risk gang affiliates following release from a prison sentence of two years or less, as part of their conditions of release or sentence. This will prevent them from associating with other members at gang headquarters or places where gangs congregate. It will also provide intelligence on their activities. The proposed changes to the Sentencing Act were recently announced to allow for 24-hour GPS monitoring of high-risk domestic violence offenders.
Other legislation will also be reviewed. Officials are to provide advice by the end of the year on options around Firearm Prohibition Orders (FPOs), which could prohibit serious gang offenders from possessing or obtaining firearms, and also penalise anyone who knowingly supplies firearms to someone subject to an FPO. Police and the Ministry of Justice will explore Interim Freezing Orders on bank accounts and cash, and possible unexplained wealth laws, for those convicted of drug trafficking or similar offences. To prevent and disrupt drug trafficking within New Zealand and between the North and South Islands, Police and Justice will investigate a pilot of drug detector dogs at key domestic ports (maritime and air).
“This is a comprehensive plan and Government agencies will have an important role to play in the years ahead,” says Mrs Tolley.
“Gangs don’t need to be a fact of life in New Zealand. They are criminal organisations, and inflict serious harm on anyone who comes into contact with them.”
Q and As:
What is the cost to New Zealand from gang activity?
Apart from the harm they cause communities, Police analysis of just one gang family showed that over three generations they had 423 victims, costing the taxpayer around $5 million in justice costs and benefits costs.
Corrections estimates the proportion of gang members in prison has increased from 15 per cent to around 28 per cent over the past eight years, with each prisoner costing the taxpayer approximately $100,000 each year.
Gang members reoffend at twice the rate of non-gang offenders, so are more likely to return to prison.
What is the cost to families?
Five out of nine child deaths in New Zealand between 2009 and 2012 involved step fathers with gang connections.
55 per cent of gang members are dependent on welfare. 61 per cent have outstanding child support owing. 71 per cent of clan labs have links to organised crime, and children were found at 33 per cent of drug dealing houses uncovered in 2013.
So our plan to crack down on gangs and help vulnerable families is another tool in the arsenal to fight the drivers of misery in society – like poor education, family violence, crime, welfare dependency and hopelessness.
If things don’t change, then imagine the wasted human potential and community harm that might arise. We want to change the life course of these kids, who’ve already had such a difficult start in life. Because if we don’t, they have a high chance of heading down the path to state care, crime and welfare dependency.
Which agencies are involved in this plan?
Police, Corrections, Justice, the Ministry of Social Development, Education, Health, Te Puni Kokiri, Housing New Zealand, Inland Revenue and Customs.
How will this tie in with existing programmes?
This is much wider than a law and order issue. Families identified as needing support will be able to benefit from Government programmes such as Whānau Ora, Children’s Teams, Social Sector Trials, our recently announced Family Violence package, Neighbourhood Policing Teams, the Youth Crime Action Plan and our initiatives to reduce reoffending. We want to prevent gang activity and reduce crime and violence in families and communities. We also want to offer young people an alternative to gang life.
What’s different about this idea?
If we want to bring the crime rate down even further, and make communities safer, then we have to tackle the offending which is more difficult to reduce. We want to see fewer victims of gang crime, including fewer victims within gang families. The reality is that we can’t arrest our way out of this issue, so law and order is only one part of the answer.
For the first time we have brought Government agencies together to help gather and share information, and ensure there is a collaborative approach to dealing with gangs, supporting the families of gang members, and putting in place some long-term approaches to this issue.
What are the timeframes and cost?
The Gang Intelligence Centre and Taskforces will be funded through Budget 2015 and established by December 2015. Funding of around $1.6 million over two years is required for the Intelligence Centre and detailed costing work for the taskforces is currently underway.
Other work is expected to be funded from baselines.
What other work is taking place in prisons?
Gang members have been able to access the huge increase in places on addiction, rehabilitation, education and skills programmes over the past three years. Corrections will work more closely with these gang members to encourage them to access and benefit from rehab. The Department is also focusing on improving their identification of gang affiliates, as well as protecting prisoners from gang intimidation and recruitment.
What initiatives will be introduced through the Start at Home programme?
In addition to existing programmes, agencies will work with local government, community providers, local businesses and iwi to develop local initiatives, alongside the work already being done by Neighbourhood Policing Teams. This could include community events with access to recreational activities and health and education services. It could also include schemes similar to the Community Garden in the Gisborne area, where women from gang families were supported with access to education, skills, budgeting and social services. http://www.tenone.police.govt.nz/tenone/June14News2.htm
These events and activities are the drivers for agencies to offer support through a range of measures.
How will success be measured?
Reductions in crime, especially violent crime, will be measured as part of the Better Public Services targets – the plan will also be continuously reviewed by Police. The Gang Intelligence Centre will be gathering up to the minute information which should give Police important intelligence on the effect these initiatives are having. As well as crimes committed, this will also include successes on steering young people away from gang life, who had been identified as being at risk. Through the close working relationship between agencies in this dedicated unit, it will also gather information on how violence towards wives, partners and children within the gang families is being dealt with and prevented, and what additional action and support is required.
Gangs have been a blight on too many communities for far too long.
This gang-busting approach will reduce crime and the harm it does to its victims which include families of gang members.