National will make membership of a gang an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing, so gang members convicted of an offence face tougher consequences for their crimes, National Party Leader Christopher Luxon says.
“Gangs have been an unwelcome part of New Zealand’s criminal landscape for decades, but in recent years, their numbers and the level of violence they perpetrate have seen a significant and alarming rise,” says Luxon, the MP for Botany.
“Just this week we have seen gang members effectively take control of the town Ōpōtiki, forcing schools to close and bus services to be cancelled. This is unacceptable.
Since Labour took office in 2017, New Zealand has witnessed a staggering 66 per cent increase in gang membership, amounting to more than 3500 new members, Luxon says.
“New Zealand now has 8900 gang members, compared to 10,700 frontline police officers. Alarmingly, gangs are now recruiting around twice as fast as the police, and in five police districts there are now more gang members than police officers.
“These gangs pose a grave threat to New Zealand society. They thrive by preying on the most vulnerable individuals, peddling addiction, intimidation, and widespread misery wherever they set up shop.
“That is why a National government I lead will make gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing so that gang members will face tougher consequences for their crimes.
“Aggravating factors acknowledge that, in some cases, the circumstances surrounding a crime may inflict greater harm upon their victims and so warrant stronger sentences.
“National believes the visible presence of gangs in communities can lead to prolonged fear and intimidation for victims who have suffered at the hands of gang-related offences.
“By making gang membership an aggravating factor, judges will be required to consider this when determining a sentence. In practice, it means offenders who are known members of criminal gangs will likely face tougher sentences for crime.
“National’s message is clear: If you choose to align yourself with a criminal gang and engage in criminal activities, you will face more severe consequences.”
Luxon says this is another initiative that will help restore law and order to New Zealand, along with a range of solutions National has already announced, including:
- Banning gang patches in public places.
- Allowing police to issue dispersal notices where gang members come together in public to intimidate, threaten and sometimes assault members of the public.
- Giving police non-association powers to prevent gang members from communicating and planning criminal activity.
- Giving police the warrantless search powers they need to take the guns out of the hands of violent armed gang members which has contributed to the worst gun violence seen in New Zealand.
- Cracking down on serious youth offenders by creating young offender military academies.