“The debate over whether a senior civil servant is ‘woke’ or if gang numbers are statistically reliable completely misses the point – we know more and more New Zealanders are being victimised by violent thugs, and it stands to reason that more and more of them are gang members,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“This morning Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the National Gang List can’t be relied on as a statistical count, but the underlying numbers that matter don’t lie.

“We know from official statistics that violent crime is on the rise in our communities.

“Despite New Zealanders being under house arrest for several weeks last year, the number of crimes in the following categories increased between 2018 and 2020:

  • Acts Intended to Cause Injury – up 17 per cent
  • Abduction, Harassment and Other Related Offences Against a Person – up 54 per cent
  • Prohibited and Regulated Weapons and Explosives Offences – up 17 per cent
  • Public Order Offences – up 16 per cent.

“We shouldn’t waste any more time debating the statistical reliability of the National Gang list or the purpose of its compilation.

“It’s obvious to anyone with a set of eyes that gang membership is up and the stats say crime is up too.

“Two things should be completely unacceptable to the public and should now become the focus of tackling this rising problem.

“First, the Government hasn’t recognised or articulated how it’s going to address the issue – let alone honestly recognise that the issue exists. They’re trying to absolve themselves of responsibility and are leaving everything to the Police. Questions to the Government on gang crime are now routinely met with ‘it’s an operational matter.’

“Second, Police Operation Tauwhiro needs funding, identified targets to meet, and new powers to make it work, like ACT’s proposed beefing up of the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, which would make it easier to seize gang assets if Police find illegal firearms.

“Finally, it’s outrageous given the evidence before the community that Police plan to run Operation Tauwhiro for only six months.

“That suggests it’s a public relations fig leaf that isn’t taking the gang problem seriously at all.

“Right now this Government and the Police aren’t convincing anyone that they’re taking gangs seriously, and it will cost both of them in popularity and respect.”