11 Mar 2014

Marlborough cool on Mob

8:21 am on 11 March 2014

Marlborough has experienced an influx of Mongrel Mob members in recent times - and residents are not happy about it.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

The top of the South Island is not generally considered a target for serious gangs but locals say the number of gang affiliates moving there in recent years seems to be on the rise.

An eight-month police operation targetting Mongrel Mob activities in Marlborough culminated in the arrest of 14 people last September. The operation involved more than 40 police in Blenheim.

Marlborough mayor Alistair Sowman says it's been a worrying time.

"I see a lot of them now have gone away for a holiday at the Government's expense and I guess that's good. But we are a conservative province, a conservative community and it's hard to relate to gangs," he says.

Marlborough area police commander Simon Feltham says some gang members have accused police of picking on them but that's not the case.

"We target people based on their behaviour and offending rather than their affiliations. It's a fairly well known public record that the majority of Mongrel Mob members are involved in serious criminal activity and that's why they're targeted by police, not because they're members of the Mongrel Mob," Mr Feltham says.

Intimidating

A bartender at a popular town centre night spot, who did not want to be identified, says she has seen groups of men whom she believes could be gang affiliates.

She and the other staff find them intimidating.

"We have the kitchen boys sometimes but usually it's just us girls," she says.

Gang researcher Jarrod Gilbert says one reason they might be relocating to Marlborough is that they might be trying to break away from life as a gang member:

"If guys are looking to work, the best thing to do is encourage them in that area, and to encourage them towards social pursuits," Mr Gilbert says.

"Groups like the Mongrel Mob are notoriously difficult to deal with, and some of their membership can be euphemistically quite troublesome so you know we've got to expect some problems and some trouble.

"But if people are really trying to move to a new region to start afresh then really it should be encouraged."

But University of Canterbury Professor of Sociology Greg Newbold does not believe that is the reason for the shift to Marlborough, saying the idea of a peaceful Mongrel Mob is as likely as a racially tolerant branch of the Klu Klux Klan.

Police say there are only one or two patched Mongrel Mob members still in the area; the rest have either moved away or are in custody.