Gang numbers in New Zealand grew to almost 8000 last year, according to figures released to the National Party.
The figures showed Wellington had experienced the greatest increase in numbers last year, which is up 51 per cent from 2019 to almost 1000 patched members.
But there are caveats to the statistics, as noted by gang expert Jarrod Gilbert. In a Newsroom column, Gilbert wrote police figures about gangs could be “highly inaccurate” because it didn’t take into account people leaving gangs.
Opposition leader Judith Collins said Wellington’s figures had almost doubled since Labour took office in 2017.
“The fact they are gaining a significant foothold in Wellington is extremely troubling. The Government must take action to toughen up laws and support the police to enforce them,” she said.
“More gang members means more crime and violence on our streets.”
According to the figures, in December 2017, the number of people in gangs was 5568 nationwide. In December last year, there were 7825.
In the greater Auckland region – Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitemata – there were now 1529 gang members.
Collins said Labour had a “soft approach to crime” and must deliver on its 2017 promise of 1800 additional new police.
She said the Government needed to focus on reducing crime rates, rather than just reducing prison populations.
The Government also needed to “urgently” make Firearm Prohibition Orders legal “so police can take guns from gangs”, Collins said.
Last week, police announced a nationwide crackdown on guns held by gangs.
Operation Tauwhiro's key focus will be focused on the investigation and disruption of the illegal supply of firearms which is "enabling firearms violence", Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said.
It includes the "illegal manufacture, modification and supply of firearms to gangs and organised crime groups".
The long-term, nationally-coordinated operation will see each police district run their own "tailored initiative" alongside iwi and community groups to offer support that can help address the underlying causes of violence.