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Low profile of gangs good for business

  1. ~lostgurl~
    Low profile of gangs good for business

    15 July 2006 [​IMG]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Is the peace that has broken out between some gangs a calculated move on the part of organised criminals to lower their profile? Or are gang members simply growing up and going straight? Ruth Hill reports.[/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]A few years ago, the streets of Hastings were frequently the setting for gang warfare, as patched gang members faced off outside the town's bars. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Detective David Sutherland, a gang intelligence officer in Hastings, says the town is "quieter" these days. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Gangs that were once locked in bitter turf disputes are now cooperating. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Senior Black Power members even attended a Hawke's Bay Mongrel Mob "leadership forum" in March. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]But Mr Sutherland is sceptical of claims gangs are moving away from crime. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"They have a saying `TCB' – `taking care of business' – and their business is crime." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Police Association president Greg O'Connor says methamphetamine has changed the landscape of the underworld. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]These days, gang bosses move in the best society circles, and "foot soldiers" are under orders to avoid unseemly street brawls, which are likely to attract the attention of the authorities. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Until recent years, New Zealand had avoided large-scale organised crime, which was entrenched in most Western countries, including Australia. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Gangs always had a share of the cannabis trade, but were never been able to corner it completely. Methamphetamine requires a bit more sophistication, particularly importation and distribution." [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Some are forging links with organised crime networks overseas, Mr O'Connor says. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Even if meth disappeared tomorrow, we'd still be left with the legacy of organised crime." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Some gangs also ran successful legitimate businesses, which allowed them to launder money from criminal enterprises. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"You have parallel industries developing, with lawyers and accountants coming in to help them. Organised crime means just that: being organised." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Senior police and politicians missed their chance a decade ago to crack down on methamphetamine (known colloquially as "P" for "pure") by ignoring overseas trends – and the union's warnings, he says. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"There was a complete failure in the 1990s to firstly recognise the extent of the problem, and secondly a failure to fund the fight against it. . .[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Now it will be a hugely expensive process to uproot organised crime." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]He admits there have been big improvements lately: in the past two years, police have made a series of multi-city raids to break up major rings. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Veteran Black Power leader Abraham Wharewaka's drug empire brought in up to $5 million a year before it was busted. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]A massive police operation, code-named Operation Soprano, uncovered a sophisticated industry, centred on an Otahuhu tinny house known as "the marae", which was part of a housing complex that Wharewaka developed in the late 1970s with government grants. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]In the High Court at Auckland in March last year, the 62-year-old president of the Sindi chapter – once feted by prime minister Rob Muldoon and senior police for his role in setting up work schemes – was sentenced to eight years for manufacturing methamphetamine, cultivating cannabis, and belonging to an organised criminal group. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]His brother and vice-president, Timothy Jake Wharewaka, 52, 38-year-old son, Abraham Wharewaka, and 24-year-old lover, Rania Mohsen Niazi (Remuera-reared and private-schooled), were also convicted of related charges. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]In March, South Auckland police busted another crime syndicate run by Black Power members, which was turning over about $1 million in drugs and stolen property a year. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]The following month, 18 men and women were arrested in a simultaneous dawn raid on 18 addresses in Pukekohe, Papakura and Manurewa. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]But police say these busts have only exposed the size of the P problem and the extent of co-operation between gangs. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]In Auckland, police are discovering P labs at a rate of about one a week. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Mr O'Connor says the lack of a national approach has handicapped police efforts, with gangs centralising as police become more decentralised. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Another continuing problem is the way in which police funding is always "tagged", giving little flexibility. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Criminals are never, never ring-fenced: they move very quickly from one commodity to another." After the Fisheries Ministry started cracking down on paua and cray poachers in the past five years, gangs moved on to less-policed areas, such as drug dealing. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]In recent years, police have successfully focused on cutting "volume crime", such as burglaries. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]This type of crime is "measurable" – while drug-related crime tends to slip under the radar, Mr O'Connor says. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Gangs have thrived in an environment in which police, like many other government departments, have become obsessed with counting and statistics." [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Mr O'Connor says that some districts have purposely reduced their emphasis on organised crime and drugs "because it messes up their statistics" – though he declines to say which ones. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]It is "inevitable" that gangs will infiltrate government departments, local bodies and even the police eventually, he says. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]This year a civilian police worker was convicted of helping a member of the Head Hunters gang escape police – and of possession of a methamphetamine pipe. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Organised crime relies on "spheres of intimidation", Mr O'Connor says. [/FONT]
    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]When criminals are merely terrorising their own associates, that's not such a big deal. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]But as that sphere widens – through drug debts, blackmail, or straight intimidation – the power of gangs grows. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]And P has given gangs leverage in places they never had it before. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Many P users are middle New Zealanders: they're businesspeople, professionals, students, housewives – everyone has influence somewhere." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]However, Canterbury University PhD student Jarrod Gilbert, who is writing a history of gangs in New Zealand, says the vast majority of gang members do not fit the profile of "organised criminals". [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"There's no doubt that gangs are a lot quieter today than they've been in the past. . . police say it's to do with organised activity, but I think a more probable explanation is that gang members have got older and calmed down a lot," he says. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]The Police Association estimates there are 6000 patched members with 60,000 "associates" – outnumbering the nation's 7627 sworn police officers nine-to-one. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]But Mr Gilbert, who has spent the past three years hanging out with gangs as part of his research, says membership of the traditional patched gangs is aging and contracting. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Though there is a criminal fraternity that reaches deep into gangs, most gang members come from working-class backgrounds and remain working-class their entire lives, he says. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"You don't see the shows of ostentatious wealth that you would expect if they were into significant organised crime." Most gangs have realised that if they act criminally as a group, "it's only going to take one significant bust and the entire gang is history – and they don't want that". [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]He says police over-estimate gangs' involvement in drug dealing. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"In the 1980s, before the Proceeds of Crime Act, certain chapters of certain gangs did operate as organised criminal groups. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]But even then, it was a rare thing, and that angle can certainly be over-blown." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Gangs see themselves as social clubs. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Society might regard them as anti-social clubs, but they just enjoy each other's company. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Some of these motorcycle gangs would have more in common with a Rotary club than a youth gang down in South Auckland." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Some members undoubtedly need law-enforcement measures occasionally, but traditional policing methods are more than adequate for the task, Mr Gilbert says. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]However, though old-school ethnic and motorcycle gangs are mainly about socialising, Asian gangs are introducing a culture of organised crime, he says. Last month, a cooperative investigation between Ports of Auckland and police resulted in a bust that netted a record $135 million worth of methamphetamine – all destined for the New Zealand market. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Three Chinese men, a Hong Kong national and two New Zealand residents of Chinese descent, are facing drugs and firearms charges. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"Overseas, they are far more into organised activity, so that culture would come with them," Mr Gilbert says. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Ex-Black Power member turned social worker Denis O'Reilly says the focus is on "street level distribution" of methamphetamine – whereas it would be more effective to set our sights higher. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"It's the flood of the product coming into New Zealand that we urgently need to stem, and I don't believe that this is being primarily carried here by local street gangs," he said. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]"It's as if the prevailing paradigm is so fixed that we can't see what's before our eyes." [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Last year seizures of meth at the borders went up by a factor of eight. Customs estimate they intercept about 20 per cent of flow. [/FONT]

    [FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, MS Sans Serif]Christchurch Black Power president Shane Turner says mainly Asian organised crime syndicates are behind the upsurge in methamphetamine, and they have little to do with traditional gangs. [/FONT]

    NZPA

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3732170a11,00.html

Comments

  1. Thirdedge
    In Hunter S Thompsons book 'Hells Angels' he predicted that gangs would die with the coming of the technical age, it is unfortunite that prohibition has not only allowed them to survive, but also grow very powerfull.
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