Hawke's Bay police to remain armed as region grapples with increasing gang violence

Sean Hogan
Source: 1News

Hawke's Bay police will continue to be armed as a wave of gang-related crime hits the region.

The order to have all officers carry firearms was given after five gang-related incidents since Saturday night.

Footage has emerged of a gang "turf war" in Napier's Anderson Park on Sunday where a man was knocked unconscious with a baseball bat, as police say gangs are increasingly fighting over methamphetamine.

The man was taken to hospital and two others were hospitalised in gang incidents that day.

One man was hit by a car, while the other had stab wounds. It all ended with bullets fired at the medical centre in Napier.

Last night police received reports of shots fired in a Napier suburb, and a car was pulled over to find three illegal fire arms inside. Two people were arrested and appeared in court today.

Detective Inspector Mike Foster says it’s a miracle nobody has been killed.

Tensions have been building.

In May a Mongrel Mob initiation saw the public stopped from accessing Te Mata Peak in Hastings.

And last month, Wairoa's police station and an officer's home was shot at.

A special police unit with six full-time staff has been trying to tackle gang-related crime over the last six months.

Mr Foster says the unit has already made good progress.

"They've already arrested over 60 people, made referrals to drug and alcohol clinics, and they are in discussions with gang leadership," Mr Foster told 1 NEWS.

In the Eastern District alone, there're estimated to be over 1000 gang members, with police believing there's been a 58 per cent increase in gang membership in the past two years.

They say recruitment has been helped by social media and the crime fuelled by cheap methamphetamine.

"What we're seeing now is members showing wealth, flash cars, motorbikes, with cash and it’s an attractive alternative to the lower socio-economic people - they’re targeting the vulnerable."

Local councillor Henare O'Keefe led a march against crime in Hastings over a decade ago.

He says everyone's responsible for fixing the problem.

"You can bury your head in the sand and pretend the problem doesn't exist while the worst probably scenarios can and will potentially surface," Mr O'Keefe said.

Police say arrests over Sunday's incidents are imminent and all officers will continue to be armed until it's safe.