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Initiatives to pile pressure on criminal gangs

17 September 2008

New Government initiatives to pile pressure on criminal gangs

Two Government announcements today will step up the pressure on organised criminal gangs, Police and Justice Minister Annette King and Corrections Minister Phil Goff said today.

Police have announced that the Organised and Financial Crime Agency New Zealand will receive 35 more positions, bringing the total to 58 from the 1250 additional Police staff added this Parliamentary term. Staff in the new agency will lead specialist taskforces against organised crime, and will coordinate the activities of other agencies, both domestically and internationally, against organised crime affecting New Zealand. The agency will work to seize the assets of gang members, as well as those who sit outside gangs but benefit from their activities.

Police Minister Annette King said police now have 234 dedicated staff in organised crime units, made up of 40 squads around New Zealand. This does not include specialist or covert unit numbers. When the organised crime units began in 1991 they had just six staff.

The Search and Surveillance Powers Bill tabled in Parliament today by Justice Minister Annette King introduces comprehensive reforms to existing search and surveillance powers.

"These include reform of the law enforcement use of surveillance devices; more explicit powers to search computers and seize electronic data; and the availability of production and monitoring orders and examination orders for law enforcement agencies," Annette King and Phil Goff said.

"These will give police additional tools and resources to fight organised crime groups. These gangs are getting rich through the peddling of drugs such as methamphetamine, which are destroying people's lives.

"These new measures are the latest steps in the Government's approach to tackling gangs. We know that no one action will do the job on its own. A combination of tough legislation and well-resourced agencies is needed to squeeze gangs from all directions.

"The Government has already taken the fight to gangs across a number of fronts. This includes reclassifying methamphetamine as a Class A drug in 2003, and increasing the maximum jail sentence for manufacturing or selling P from 14 years to life imprisonment," the Ministers said.

"The Police have also busted around 1200 clan labs since 2001. The fact that 75 per cent of people involved were gang members is clear evidence that gangs are at the heart of this pernicious trade. Police have mounted over 120 electronic monitoring operations during the past four years, and last year made arrests resulting in 26,000 separate charges against gang members or associates. This demonstrates the importance placed by the Government and police on smashing the drug trade and the gangs involved in it.

"Two Bills the Government already has before Parliament are aimed at destroying gang power," the Ministers said.

"The Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Bill will help strip gang members, including the gang bosses who do not get their hands dirty, of assets derived from crime. Under civil forfeiture procedures, courts will decide on the civil standard of balance of probabilities if a person has acquired assets from criminal activities. If so, the onus of proof will be on the individual to demonstrate which of all of their assets if any should not be confiscated because they are not derived from crime.

"The Organised Crime (Penalties and Sentencing) Amendment Bill doubles the maximum sentence for being a member of an organised crime group from five to 10 years and makes being a member of an organised crime group an aggravating factor during sentencing.

"We are also monitoring new legislation introduced by the South Australian Government. Under this legislation, courts can act on police advice to declare gangs to be criminal organisations. This allows courts to issue restraining orders on members of organised crime gangs to prevent them from associating with other members, carrying weapons and visiting named locations, in order to disrupt organised criminal activities," the Ministers said.

ENDS


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