Guest Post: Gangs are changing alright – for the worst

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Gangs are changing alright – for the worst

One of the “experts” at Andrew Little’s justice talkfest is Dr Jarrod Gilbert of Canterbury University. Gilbert has pretty much supplanted Greg Newbold as the media’s “go to” guy on gangs and crime. Gilbert is the author of “Patched: the history of gangs in New Zealand”. In it, Gilbert manages for the most part to disguise the fact that he is essentially an apologist for gangs. His recent message – and no doubt the message  he will  preach  at the Justice Summit – is that gangs are changing for the better, and so must our attitude to them. The subtext is that gangs are becoming more like the “alternative form of whanau” that Tariana Turia has claimed for years that they are. Nothing could be further from  the truth.

This morning, 21 August,  Stuff reports a gang shooting in Wanganui in which a gang member died  when a rival gang invaded his house. Two months ago there was a similar incident in which a young gang associate died and his girlfriend, who he apparently died trying to protect, was seriously injured. Wanganui was also the scene of a drive by gang shooting in which a young baby was killed in 2007.

And it’s not just  gang members shooting at  each other. In January 2017 the Black Power took a funeral procession through Mongrel Mob “territory” in Whakatane. It was an organized confrontation in  which numerous shots were fired at police in the streets of Whakatane. The members of the two gangs involved  were obviously totally unconcerned about the safety of innocent bystanders. By pure chance, no-one was killed.

This sort of behaviour has been going on for at least twenty years, and contrary to Gilbert’s claims,  gang violence involving firearms is becoming more not less common.  This morning’s murder is just the latest such incident. And for any reader of Gilbert’s book, none of this can be a surprise. The Mongrel Mob for example idolize  and aspire to ever more “mongrelish behaviour”. “Mongrelish behaviour” is anything which is contrary to and grossly affronts the norms of ordinary civilized behaviour: raping and sometimes killing women to get a patch (Mallory Manning); bashing and even  killing anyone who gets in their way; bashing raping and intimidating the “bitches” who serve their material and sexual needs.

The gang problem is of course not new: in 1972 Norman Kirk pledged to “take the bikes off the bikies”. Once in office, nothing was done. In the 80’s various gang outrages occurred resulting in supposedly strict  non association laws being passed. They were never enforced, and gang members congregate pretty much where they like. At least the police have woken up, and no long appoint “gang liaison officers” whose function was to facilitate gang “runs” and other group activities –  so long as the boys didn’t do anything too obvious or too extreme.

And let’s remember that politicians’ naivety about the true nature of gangs is not confined to Andrew Little and his colleagues in the Labour and Green parties. In 2009 then National Justice Minister Simon Power organized a “Drivers of Crime” summit at parliament. I quickly discovered that while several gang leaders were on the guest list – and had their expenses paid to attend – leading criminologist Greg Newbold was not.

When I tackled Power about this omission, I was told that it was deliberate, and was because Newbold was “too negative.” The reality of course is that Newbold is the only criminologist in the country who “tells it like it is” – for example that Maori are grossly over-represented in prisons while Pacific Islanders are not because, as he puts it, while PI’s have strong family structures and value success in education and particularly in sport, “..Maoris (sic.) are too busy drinking piss and partying”.

Newbold has not been invited to Little’s talkfest, but Jarrod Gilbert has. He, along with Professor John Pratt – the latter’s  speciality is trying against all the evidence to “prove” crime is no more prevalent than it ever was – will be telling the audience what it wants to hear: that all Maori problems, including gangs, are down to colonization, systemic racism in the justice system, and a lack of understanding of Maori.

Successive governments have thrown their hands up and put gangs and membership of them in the too hard basket. Any suggestion that they be banned is met with nonsense about the supposedly consequential   unavoidable infringement of the rights of members of peaceful organizations like the Rotary Club to assemble wearing their insignia. I say this is nonsense because at least two western democracies – Eire and Germany – have managed to ban “gangs” without members of the Rotary Club having their human rights infringed.

I refer of course to the Nazis and the IRA respectively. Throughout the years of “the troubles”, the IRA was a banned organization on both sides of the Irish border. It continued to exist of course, but its activities were severely curtailed. Germany is probably a better example: appear on the streets there waving a swastika flag or carrying images of Adolf, and you will quickly find yourself in jail.

Across the Tasman, various gangs have been banned, most recently the Mongrel Mob in Queensland. The success of those laws has been patchy, at least in part because in Australia, as here, there are legions of “human rights” lawyers just dying to defend the human rights of the sort of scum they would never dream of inviting to their dinner parties.

Gangs are a scourge and a cancer on our society, and they have been for at least two generations. If Andrew Little was really serious about reducing the prison population by 30% – a totally ludicrous goal – he would start by making hard decisions about gangs, and rather than inviting their leaders and  apologists for them to talkfests like the present one, set up one of their currently much favoured “working groups” with a brief to come up with ways of eliminating this scourge from our society. Without unintended consequences for the Rotary Club.

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