2 Mar 2016

Gang plan could harm some whanau - Marama Fox

9:12 am on 2 March 2016

A new multi-pronged attack on gangs and gang culture could leave some families worse off, the Maori Party says.

Two pilot programmes have been put in place in the Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast to break what the government calls the intergenerational family gang cycle.

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Photo: Youtube

A new gang intelligence centre is also up and running to collect information on gang activities and family trees.

The initiatives follow the release of a report which says 60 percent of children born to gang parents are abused or neglected and nine out of 10 gang members have received a benefit.

The government said the gang intelligence centre had already produced gang family trees showing the cycles of abuse and crime over generations.

But Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox was worried women and children who were associated with gang members were going to be ostracised.

"There is a cycle that needs to be broken, that is true, but we cannot simply, through association, classify all people in the same category.

"This strikes a chord with me of the character reference in Australia for deportation."

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

ACT party leader David Seymour did not see it that way.

"If you live somewhere like Moerewa in the far North and you're in a gang, everybody in that community knows that you're in a gang and everybody in that community knows who your family are.

"That's already the reality. The idea that the government will start tailoring its services to help you better based on that information - I think is the least of your worries."

The government should be targeting the money gangs made from the illegal drug trade, he said.

Green Party criminal justice spokesperson David Clendon said the way to put an end to gangs was to take away the conditions where they thrived, such as poverty and a lack of opportunities.

ACT MP David Seymour

ACT MP David Seymour Photo: RNZ/ Tom Furley

"We also need to stop putting so many young men in prison, where inevitably they become recruited by the gangs," he said.

Police Minister Judith Collins said violence bred violence and the government needed to do what it could to break the family gang cycle.

"If you go through the family violence statistics, if you go through the number of people and look at the people in jail, they are almost invariably victims of family violence themselves somewhere along the line.

"There are lots of victims of family violence who don't go on to become perpetrators but in gangs they invariably will," she said.

Ms Collins said the gang intelligence centre would use its information to disrupt and dismantle illegal gang activities and to identify and offer support to the those who want out.