Mike Yardley writes:
Amid the public outpouring of profound sadness and goodwill for the Muslim community following the terror attack, the high-visibility presence of patched gang members at cordons and vigils has aroused much curiosity.
In the wake of such monstrous evil, is it not a little incongruous for the perpetrators of so much everyday evil to down tools for a touchy-feely time-out?
The television news media, in particular, has fawned over their gatherings outside mosques to perform haka, pay their respects and offer protection.
The Bandidos, the King Cobras, the Headhunters, Black Power and the Mongrel Mob have all turned up, en-masse.
People may be unaware but almost many gangs now have a media officer. They have reporters on speed dial and are very proficient at planting stories showing them doing nice things (such as protecting mosques).
I do not doubt their expressed empathy, sorrow and grief is genuine. I’d like to think they have been summoned by their better angels, rather than Hell’s angels.
But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that gangland is suddenly seeing the error of their pernicious, destructive ways and is mass-converting into a pack of peaceniks.
The reality remains that they are responsible for a disproportionate share of violent crime in New Zealand.
I note that one of the Mongrel Mob’s chapters, The Kingdom, has decided to jettison its Nazi symbolism and its “sieg heil” rallying cry, in the aftermath of the Christchurch atrocity.
But the Mob will continue to “bark” like feral dogs.
The Kingdom’s president, Paito Fatu, reckons his chapter is transitioning away from violent crime, domestic abuse and drug crime. The Police Minister remains a doubting Thomas, understandably taking a “I’ll believe it when I see it” approach to such rhetoric.
I’ve been reading stories about them transitioning since the 1970s.
The police Gang Intelligence Centre recently put the national gang count at 5785 members and prospects, supposedly up 1500 on 2016. Gang members comprise 0.1 per cent of the population, but 15 per cent of all general firearms charges.
Forty four per cent of identified gang members had been convicted for firearms offences, as of 2016.
That seems remarkably high. If correct, it does suggest where the focus should go.