Mongrel Mob’s Harry Tam warns of ‘dangers’ to special police powers

By 1news.co.nz and is republished with permission

A senior Mongrel Mob member has warned there are “dangers” to special police powers meant to tackle gang violence, expressing concern over potential overreach and saying they could cause “a reaction”.

Rising tensions between the Mongrel Mob and Black Power have seen the police invoke special powers in Tairāwhiti, Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne, giving officers the ability to “search vehicles and places of suspected gang members, and occupants of those vehicles; and to seize firearms, weapons and vehicles”.

Senior Mongrel Mob member Harry Tam told Breakfast this morning: “They’ve always had search laws where there’s suspicion of firearms and that, so I don’t really see what’s really new about these sorts of things.

“By all means, the Government does need tools and that to tackle these sorts of issues.

“[But] police tend to use gang legislation sort of like a novelty item.”

Tam said the “real issue” is the root cause of rising gang membership.

“I’m not sure this measure will actually do anything to deal with gang membership,” he said.

Tam said the special powers may “temper” gang tensions “for a while” — but he expressed concern about potential consequences.

“There are dangers to this sort of legislation,” he said.

“Police tend to use it like a novelty item, they overuse it, and they’re over rigorous about it, and then that causes a reaction.”

Tam said “a more balanced approach” would be best.

“You might sort out the confrontation at that point in time, but in reality, there’s very little prosocial interventions going into those communities,” he said.

“Unless we actually deal with tackling the causes of gang membership and the causes of confrontation, then these things are just stopgap measures.”

He criticised the National Party’s “superficial” proposals, including banning gang patches in public.

“We can jump to the tough on crime stuff, but it isn’t actually going to fix the problem,” he said.

“If Chris [Luxon, Prime Minister-elect and National’s leader] wants to meet with me, that would be great.

“But he doesn’t seem to be a person that likes to listen to people like me.”

ACT, Te Pāti Māori disagree over special powers

ACT, Te Pāti Māori disagree over special police gang powers

ACT deputy leader Brooke van Velden said she thought the special police powers were useful.

“What I think we have are people in our community that do not feel safe,” she said.

“Especially when gang violence goes into the streets and starts affecting normal members of the public.

“We have a duty to keep people safe — and where there are, for example, illegal firearms in the hands of gang members, I believe that they shouldn’t be in the hands of gang members and the government should have the powers to search and seize those assets.”

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer echoed some of Tam’s concerns.

“All people should be considered normal, no matter what their whānau associations are,” she said.

“There could be overreach, the power could be used disproportionately.

“Our stance has always been, you cannot prison your way to justice.

“You need to be able to get involved with the communities and be part of the solution — rather than at the very end of the channel, which is what we see happening often in these situations.”

Ngarewa-Packer said all people in the community should feel safe and called for social intervention.

Van Velden said ACT wants to see “proper rehabilitation” in the justice system, and pointed to the party’s support for charter schools as an example of social intervention preventing future offending.

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