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Manukau mayor urging clampdown on gang violence

Media Release
22 August 2006

Manukau mayor urging clampdown on gang violence

Manukau Mayor Sir Barry Curtis is calling for stronger controls on alcohol, including liquor bans, to combat a disturbing outburst of gang-related violence in Otahuhu and nearby areas. “It is also time for local communities, parents and church groups to take responsibility for this problem which is focused on Pacific and Maori young people,” Sir Barry says.

He met today with the head of Counties Manukau Police, District Commander Steve Shortland, to discuss a series of clashes which have led to two violent deaths over the past two weekends, one in Otahuhu and the other in nearby Mangere.

He says alcohol is a common factor and a cause of the violence. “Liquor bans in Mangere Town Centre have stopped drunken gatherings there but the problem’s just moved to another location, Otahuhu. Those involved have simply shifted from a place where they can’t get drunk in public to a place where they can.

“There’s currently only one liquor ban in Otahuhu, which applies to the main street. I have written to Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard urging his council to consider wider liquor bans there, as that would give police the powers they need. There may also be a need to reduce licensing hours. It’s the alcohol which produces the violence, and gang clashes know no boundaries.”

The gangs in the recent incidents are different from those which hit the headlines late last year. The members are older, most between 16 and 24, and associated with either drugs or alcohol. There are two categories – one is neighbourhood gangs made up of people from the same locality and who are involved in street clashes, rather than crime.

The others are “feeder gangs” which feed members into the established patched gangs such as Mongrel Mob, who don’t get involved in street violence but carry out crimes such as selling drugs.

Both have been influenced by the attitude of hip hop, and the behaviour of LA’s street gangs.

Sir Barry says it is time for families and wider communities to become more active in finding a solution.

“The gang members are almost exclusively from Maori or Pacific families, and possibly from church-going families. The violence we’re seeing would never be tolerated back in the villages of Samoa or the Cook Islands because the whole community there would stop it. It shouldn’t be tolerated here either.”

Sir Barry also says Maori wardens play an effective role in curbing alcohol-related violence, and their role in the community should be extended.

“Only a small number of youths in the city are caught up in gangs but they are causing a huge problem for the police and residents. The violence drags down the mana of the whole city, and we must get on top of it.”

A public meeting to discuss the problem will be held next Monday at 3pm at the Otahuhu Community Hall.

Editors please note: Otahuhu is in Auckland City, not Manukau City.


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