Police to set up new National Gang Unit to curb crime


National Gang Unit established to tackle gang related crimes (Image Supplied by New Zealand Police for publication)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, May 14, 2024

In an announcement made today, May 14, 2024, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster announced the formation of new national and frontline gang-focused units aimed at curbing gang-related crime and intimidation across New Zealand.

Commissioner Coster said, “Gang members commit a disproportionate amount of crime and harm in New Zealand, particularly in areas like serious assault, robberies, drug and firearms offences, and homicides.”

“Police have been working hard to combat the impact of gangs and organised crime groups through targeted national and district operations, organised crime investigations, and various other responses.”

Enhanced operational capability

The centrepiece of this initiative is the establishment of a National Gang Unit. “A new National Gang Unit will be set up to build on our existing efforts and enhance our operational capability,” explained Commissioner Coster. This unit will collaborate with police districts nationwide, leveraging the successes of previous operations like Operation Cobalt and other coordinated responses to gang activities, including funerals and public demonstrations.

“The National Gang Unit will support district-based staff in planning and coordinating enforcement, resources, and police responses, as we continue our determined effort to disrupt and prevent gang-related crime, disorder, and intimidation,” he said.

“Incoming legislation will provide police with new tools to respond to the harm caused by gangs, ensuring that our communities feel safe. The National Gang Unit will help ensure our officers can effectively enforce the intent of this legislation.”

Dedicated district teams

In addition to the National Gang Unit, Commissioner Coster announced the creation of Gang Disruption Units. “We will be investing in new Gang Disruption Units,” he said. “These dedicated district teams will help identify, target, and catch priority offenders, maintaining a focused view of the gang environment.”

This announcement marks the beginning of the process to establish these frontline Gang Disruption Units. “Resourcing allocations will be determined in consultation with District Commanders and will likely include a mix of reprioritised and new investment,” Coster noted.

“Policing gangs and serious offenders is an all-of-police priority,” the Commissioner asserted. “The new gang units will boost our focus and capability, but they will not work alone. Our whole frontline is involved in preventing the crime and harm caused by methamphetamine, organised crime, and gangs, whether through road policing, organised crime investigations, prosecutions, or prevention activity.”

Commissioner Coster also highlighted New Zealand’s relative safety on the global stage. “At a time when safety is an evolving picture in many countries, New Zealand remains one of the safest places to live. However, the gang landscape is changing, and police will continue to adapt to meet these challenges head-on.”

“Ultimately, it is about supporting our frontline to keep everyone safe and deliver the best results for our communities. Work to implement the National Gang Unit is currently underway. Once complete, the work of Operation Cobalt will be continued through the National Gang Unit,” he said.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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