NZ's laws to combat gangs have almost no impact – study

Source: 1News

New research out of Canterbury University suggests New Zealand has a history of introducing gang laws that have almost no impact.

For example, in 1998, habitually associating with a violent offender was introduced as a law but has only been used twice between then and 2020.

A similar law, habitually associating with a drug offender, has not once been used between 1998 and 2020.

Head researcher and sociologist at Canterbury University, Jarrod Gilbert, told Breakfast several gang laws were introduced "in a panic" in 1996 ahead of the first MMP election in New Zealand.

He said such laws are often introduced for political reasons rather than that of policy making.

King Cobra gang member.

"If we look at the gang scene right now, the parallels to what we saw in 1996 are very, very clear and so I would predict, in fact I'll take any bet with any viewer out there, that we will see a big legislative drive before next year's election."

Gilbert said in order to avoid a repeat of 1996 in the 2023 election, "we need to use data, we need to use experts and I would argue that we need to use the practitioners on the ground back when these laws were proposed."

Gilbert said at the time, gang liaison officers weren't involved in decision making, "again, that speaks to the politics of this over the practicalities."

He said a big issue is "we so quickly move toward legislative responses and the reason for that is that it's easy right, and politicians prefer easy, quite clearly."

Gilbert added, laws and legislation are just one way to tackle gangs, "we really need to broaden the debate around the factors that are drawing young people particularly into gangs."

"What we can see from 1996 is that when it's taken away from an evidential base and simply becomes about votes then the outcomes are incredibly poor," he said.

Gangs are an incredibly complex issue, Gilbert said, "to think that a politician can come up with solutions and solve it just like that, is naive and its nonsense and we should expect better."