The Minister of Police and Corrections, Anne Tolley, has launched a ‘whole government plan on tackling gangs’.
Great, we need one and much of what is being proposed is good. She should be congratulated. What we don’t need is to over-inflate the problem. Unfortunately, in an election year (of course), this is what has occurred.
The Minister says there are 4000 known gang members in New Zealand. She says that so far this year they are responsible* for 34 per cent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and abduction offences; 25 per cent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 per cent of grievous assault offences; and consequently 28 per cent of the prison population is gang members. Sounds bad, right? If we believe what we are told, gang members make up just 0.1 per cent of the population yet they are responsible for between a quarter and more than a third of these serious crimes.
Unfortunately, I suspect it’s bollocks. More than that I’ll bet on it.
I will eat a suitcase full of carrots in front of the fine Sociology Department at the University of Canterbury if this data are correct. I’ll ask the Minister to do the same if I’m right.
Let’s look at what we can prove, because inconveniently she has used specific offences that don’t match with published data. Nevertheless, we are told that 28 per cent of the prison population are gang members. If we take the current prison population as 8500 that means 2380 of known gang members are currently behind bars. Whoa, that means 1620 free gang members are creating all of the carnage that the Minister has cited today.
Not only are the numbers wrong, they are widely inaccurate. Crazy inaccurate. If they’re not I’ll eat carrots.
Gilbert is wrong when he says the specific offences don’t match published data. As an academic, I am surprised he has not discovered the website run by Stats NZ.
He seems to disbelieve that somewhere between 1,620 and 4,000 gang members (some of those in jail will have been out during the year) could commit:
- 25% of aggravated robberies and robberies
- 36% of kidnapping and abductions
- 26% of grievous assaults
- 34% of class A and B drug offences
So what do the numbers tell us.
Aggravated Robberies and Robberies
There were 2,032 robberies (both types) last year. 25% would be 508. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.
Kidnappings and Abductions
There were 198 kidnappings and abductions last year. 36% would be 71. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.
If you add up the 17 assault categories that mention GBH, there were 500 offences last year. 26% would be 130. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.
Class A and B drug offences
There were 16,070 illicit drug offences in 2013. They are broken up into specific drugs and it would take a long time to do an exact count. But a previous Stats report is that less than 10% are Class A and B. So a fair assumption is 1,607 Class A and B drug offences last year. 34% would be 546. That seems a credible number for 1,620 to 4,000 gang members to do.
So on the face of it, the statistics used by the Minister do not seem incredulous.
UPDATE: I have been sent the actual stats the Minister was relying on, which are for the first quarter of 2014. They are:
- Class A/B drug offences total 218 out of 649
- Kidnapping and abduction 16 out of 44
- Aggravated robbery/robbery 72 out of 284
- Grievous assault 130 out of 506
I look forward to the Herald covering the Jarrod Gilbert eating his carrots.