13 Dec 2008

Police ready for gang tension after Jhia verdict

3:42 pm on 13 December 2008

Police in Wanganui are on alert for any flare-up in gang tension in the city.

Three men were found guilty in the High Court in Wellington on Friday of the murder of a child in a gang-related, drive-by shooting in the suburb of Gonville on 5 May last year. Jhia Te Tua was aged two years.

Wanganui area commander Duncan Macleod says contingencies are in place to deal with any issues that may arise from the verdicts.

He is urging the mens' supporters to move on and is discouraging vendettas and retaliation.

Mr Macleod says there is now less tolerance for gangs in Wanganui.

But a former Wanganui Mongrel Mob leader says gang conflict will never end.

Willie McGregor, who now counsels patched gang members in the city, says Jhia Te Tua's murder was the result of sick thinking, fuelled by drugs and alcohol.

Mr McGregor says gangs are the result of poverty and, until the divide between rich and poor is addressed, they will only prosper.

Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says the killing of the child exposes the true evil of gangs and should serve to remind people that nothing good ever comes of gangs or gang membership.

However, Mr Laws says Wanganui is now a safer place in terms of gang tension and the verdicts will allow the community to move on.

National MP Chester Borrows says the community is even less tolerant of gangs since the shooting.

Mr Borrows also says the police have learned a lesson and understand the importance of maintaining pressure on gangs.