The proposed new “crackdown” on gangs and patches has the Government promising it’s a solution to a rising tide of crime.

The proposed new legislation would ban gang patches in public spaces and give police extra powers to stop members from congregating.

However, there was now concern that a lack of police staffing in some areas would make it difficult for frontline officers to enforce the new laws.

“Gang members aren’t just going to hand over their patches. So the ability to police it in some communities will be much more difficult than others,” Police Association president Chris Cahill told RNZ.

Associate Law Professor Carrie Leonetti has called the law a “political gimmick”, and Labour’s police spokesperson Ginny Anderson said it was “impractical” to have officers as “wardrobe police”.

Speaking to Breakfast this morning, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster described the new laws as “ambitious” and conceded enforcement would be “challenging in some regions”.

Despite this, he said he welcomed the legislation – saying it would provide police with further tools to “continue to put pressure on the gangs”.

“In the end, they cause huge fear and crime in our communities, and we need to be doing everything we can to get on top of that,” he said.

“One of the things we know is that our gangs trade on the fear that is created by the patch to cover violence, to cover organised crime activity.

“And we also know that reputation is how they recruit in their communities.”

He said 500 additional police officers, promised in the Government’s coalition agreement, would be a “great help” to officers enforcing the new law.

“Some of that will be used in this gang environment.”

When asked about how the law would be enforced, Coster said it would be up to the officers on the ground.

“Sometimes our staff will get in and do the enforcement at the time.

“Other times, we will come back at a time of our choosing with a search warrant or whatever’s required to send a clear message to those who might breach this law.”

He said staff would have to “exercise good judgement” when it came to enforcing the laws.

Coster believed “good intelligence on gang activity” would allow officers to track the movements of large groups and prepare to break them up.

“We’ve seen that with tangi, where we have rolled extra staff in to bring the enforcement action that’s required,” he said.

“We don’t always have to win at the time, but we will win in the end.”

When asked about the criticisms of the policy, Police Minister Mark Mitchell said the new laws were simply necessary.

“I’m not gonna be lectured by the Labour Party or academics when over the last six years we’ve seen a massive increase in gang numbers and a huge increase in gang violence.

“All these people who are coming out as gang apologists and saying that we just have to accept that gangs will not adhere to the law, I totally reject that.”

As of April last year, it was estimated there were 8875 gang members across 33 gangs on police’s National Gang List.

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