Thursday, 9 November 2023 - 1:26pm

Cracking down on gangs

2 min read

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Stop written in lights on top of a police patrol car

New search powers are proving an effective tool in disrupting gang tensions and de-escalating ongoing violence in the Eastern District.

The Criminal Activity Intervention Legislation (CAIL) Act 2023 amended the Search and Surveillance Act and other Acts, and included the introduction of gang conflict warrants.

These warrants were used for the first time in the Eastern District on 12 September during Operation Offside after a spate of shootings in Tairawhiti.

A month later, warrants were invoked again to quell gang tensions following a series of gang-related firearms events in Tairāwhiti that resulted in a gang associate being hospitalised with a gunshot wound to the leg.

Gang conflict warrants issued under the amended Search and Surveillance Act give Police staff the ability to search vehicles and occupants of vehicles of suspected gang members, and to seize firearms and weapons, and vehicles in a specified area. A warrant can also be obtained for specified premises.

The new measures have also been used in Bay of Plenty and Central Districts.

In September, the powers allowed staff to search vehicles known to be linked to gang members over a seven-day period, with items located including machetes, knives, scissors, pepper spray and knuckle dusters.

In October, the warrant was invoked during Operation Medial and led to the arrest of five gang members on charges ranging from wounding, robbery and firearms offences.

District Crime Services Manager Marty James says while there are learnings from both operations, using the new search powers has been very successful.

“In both operations, the impact of our staff invoking the powers was almost immediate with a reduction in gang movement and reported altercations,” says Marty.

“Our staff worked extremely hard to get the warrant implemented and then to use it, with praise coming from the mayor of Gisborne during Operation Medial for the quick response from Police and good results.”

Marty says the invocation of highlights to gang members and those who believe they are above the law that illegal and unsafe activity will not be tolerated.

“We are sending a clear message to all gangs and the wider public that Police do not tolerate unlawful behaviour and will work hard to hold people to account.”