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Police union warns businessmen who accept cash payments from gangs - 'You're just as bad'

Lawyers, accountants and real estate agents laundering gangs' dirty money are "just as bad" as the patched members themselves, Police Association president Chris Cahill says as police shift their focus to combat white collar crime aiding those on the street.

As police struggle to cope with a combination of soaring gang numbers, increasing violence and a rapid drop in the price of methamphetamine, authorities want to take a more comprehensive approach to tackling the issues, Mr Cahill told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

His comments come after Police Minister Stuart Nash yesterday said at the Police Association's annual general meeting that efforts had been successful so far to bolster police numbers and new laws were being drafted to tackle gangs.     

But a focus of the conference today will be on looking into how and why businesses are accepting bundles of dirty money, Mr Cahill said.

"You're seeing this big growth in gang numbers, they're out there, they're visible, but behind the scenes is the lawyers, the accountants, the real estate agents that are actually laundering their money so we've really got to tackle both sides of the issue.

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Over the past two years gang numbers have risen dramatically from just over 5000 to 6729, a 26 per cent increase. Source: 1 NEWS

"The real message is that you're just as bad as that patched gang member out on the street and so you can expect the police to come looking for you as well as that gang member on the street. Without tackling both we'll never turn this around."

Mr Cahill said gangs were organised crime driven by money.

"We've got massive cartels from southeast Asia, from Mexico that are flooding New Zealand with cheap methamphetamine and they've turned this supply and demand equation around on it's head. Now supply is driving that demand."

He said gangs are selling the drugs as cheap as they can, in both provincial New Zealand and main centres, which is driving them money.

"Unless they can get their dirty money and make it into clean money they can't spend it," he said. "So that's what we've got to tackle, both sides."

Mr Cahill said it wasn't acceptable for gangs to use bundles of dirty money to spend on luxury items.

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Julian Lee went in search of the reasons behind the patched migration south. Source: Seven Sharp

"When you see the unemployed gang member driving around on their flash Harley Davidson we need to challenge that. 

"When someone wanders in and starts handing over bundles of cash, they shouldn't be able to do that and it needs to be challenged, and that's what we're saying. We need to have laws that make sure it's easy to challenge where they money's come from."

Mr Cahill also said it was a cause for more people to join gangs, adding there was incentive to join from hardworking Kiwis seeing those  unemployed gang member driving around on their Harley Davidsons.

"We've got to take those bikes off them," he said.

"Money is the key. If we tackle the money we'll end up getting a result."

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The rise in gang numbers will be a focus during the Police Association’s annual conference in Wellington today. Source: Breakfast