Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dealing with gangs

The last two weeks have seen an outpouring of anger over the death of a toddler in a gang-related drive-by shooting. This anger has in turn led to the usual knee-jerk solutions, with calls to cut gang members off from the social welfare system, and to kick them out of state houses (which ironicly would have resulted in said toddler starving to death in a carboard box rather than being shot. But that clearly wouldn't trouble the minds of those screaming for vengeance nearly so much). There have even been calls for gangs to be "banned" - something the Prime Minister at least realises is a lot harder and less useful than it sounds, but we are talking about knee-jerk solutions. But one solution which is never mentioned is for the police to use the powers they have.

To point out the obvious, murder is a crime in New Zealand. So is drug dealing. And so are assault, burglary, posession of unlicensed firearms, intimidation - pretty much everything gangs do as part of their business. This may be a novel idea, but I think the police should actually try and prosecute them for it. This would of course require the police to do actual police work rather than watching bestiality flicks and exploiting and raping vulnerable women - but that is after all what we pay them for. If they lack the necessary resources, they should be provided. But if they're not up to the job, then maybe we should get some people who are.

As for powers, it is worth pointing out that s98A of the Crimes Act criminalises "participation in organised criminal group" - meaning a group with the objective of "obtaining material benefits from the commission of offences that are punishable by imprisonment for a term of 4 years or more" or of "serious violent offences" (which again covers gangs' core business). Those convicted can be imprisoned for up to five years. I oppose this law as essentially "guilt by association" - but its existence makes it difficult to claim that the police don't already have draconian enough powers.


Or try and do something about the reasons why people feel the need to join gangs in the first place.

Mind you, how much is gang warfare *really* such a problem here compared to other countries - or is it just another *nothing much happens in NZ* thing.

Posted by Rich : 5/20/2007 01:25:00 PM