There is no doubt gang membership in New Zealand is rising, but the Police's count is likely exaggerated, a leading gang researcher says.
Police Association President Greg O'Connor claimed this week that up to 70 potential recruits of the Head Hunters gang were heading to Auckland for training every month.
"Their numbers have gone from 135 to 275 patched and prospects in just the last two years," Mr O'Connor said. "It sounds like their training budget is better than police's."
However, Canterbury University sociologist Jarrod Gilbert said Mr O'Connor's numbers probably came from a single source and was not necessarily reliable.
"This is the problem we have with street intelligence of course, and academics don't tend to take much heed with just one person's opinion," he said.
"We'd look over a more systematic approach than that and I'd suspect that that number is grossly inflated, to be honest."
Dr Gilbert said it was true there had been an inexplicable resurgence of patched gangs in recent years, but police should be focusing on organised crime as a whole.