Marc My Words: Crime Gangs Must Be Targeted!
From Marc Alexander MP. United Future NZ-Christchurch Supplement, 31 Oct 2003
Crime gangs must be targeted!
It is high time that those who live off the earnings of criminal activities be made accountable; not only for the crimes for which they are charged, but for the onus of proof that their property has been lawfully obtained. If they cannot do this.then property should be confiscated, with the proceeds distributed back to the communities these criminals have preyed upon.
It is clear that there has been a massive rise in revenue accruing to gangs and other organisations. This is being driven by an escalating market and profits from drugs such as Methamphetamines. In the last four years the increase in Police 'busts' of clandestine laboratories manufacturing these drugs has risen 2840 per cent.1 This rise is directly linked to the 6000 per cent profit margin gangs can expect to make from the cost of turning the base ingredients into methamphetamine or its derivatives.
The major concern for Police (other than the considerable individual and social costs), is that highly organised crime gangs with international networks are beginning to work together. Police estimate that such gangs control 95 per cent of the 'P' distribution in New Zealand and, given the financial rewards, are accumulating huge resources.3
It is evident that imprisonment alone is insufficient to deter gangs. It has been shown that criminals are able to access 'black money' once they are released, and the gang structure itself supersedes individual interests. It is axiomatic that any strategy against gangs involved in drug profiteering must target unlawfully obtained assets.
Legislation introduced in Western Australia in 2001 has enabled authorities to confiscate all assets not proven to be obtained lawfully. The result has been to shift the burden of proof to members and associates of these gangs, in effect, 'hitting them in their wallet'. Superintendent Fred Gere of Western Australia said, "You've got to look at taking the profit out of crime. Until you do that, they're just going to continue. They don't care about the community - they care about the money."4
An initiative outlined by Peter Dunne and me includes civil proceedings brought against those who participate in criminal organisations. Assets would be frozen until the State could confirm that, in the absence of proof of lawful acquisition, and on the balance of probabilities, that the resources of the gang or a member of a gang were the result of criminal activity. At that point those assets would then be confiscated to do some good back in to the community from where they came. These could include drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes and reparation to victims.
If we want to reclaim our streets and our future, we need to give the Police the tools to do the job. We must declare war on those who have fed off us like parasites. It's time to take our gloves off and treat these criminal organisations with the only weapon that will do the job, - take away their ill-gotten gains.