Wednesday, April 24, 2024

We’re cracking down on gang crime

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The coalition Government is giving police greater powers to enable them to target gang offending. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.
  • By Christopher Luxon, Prime Minister and MP for Botany

Law and order has been top of mind for many communities across New Zealand for several years, and for Aucklanders in particular it was in the form of the ram-raid scourge.

New Zealanders watched on horrified as the previous Government took too long to support property owners in a meaningful way.

But Botany residents should be comforted that when it comes to the criminal gangs, you will not see the same slackness from the coalition Government.

For the past five years, the Labour Government allowed gangs to be an attractive option for some young people.

In that time, the gangs recruited more than 3000 members. There are now estimated to be 9000 of them.

In that time, gang-related violence, public intimidation and shootings rocketed, with violent crime up a totally unacceptable 33 per cent.

This calls for a forceful and timely response, and that’s what the Government is doing.

We are right now drafting legislation to give police new tools to deal with gangs.

We are banning all gang insignia in public places and will create greater powers to stop gangs from gathering in groups and communicating.

Police will be able to issue dispersal notices that will require gang members to immediately leave the area and not associate with one another for seven days.

And the courts will be able to issue orders that will stop specified offenders from associating or communicating with one another for up to three years.

For too long, gangs have been allowed to endanger and intimidate law-abiding people, and these laws will support police to change that.

The Government has also moved quickly on the length of time some people are spending on jobseeker benefits.

The Minister for Social Development and Employment has written to MSD to make it clear all obligations and sanctions are applied around these benefits.

The numbers are staggering. Since 2017 the number of people on Jobseeker benefits has increased by around 70,000.

Around 40,000 of them were on that benefit for more than a year.

Worse, work-ready job seekers are projected to spend an average of 13 years on a benefit, while teenagers who go onto welfare are forecast to be trapped there for an average of 24 years.

This is not acceptable, and we are changing it.

Under this Government, if job seekers fail to attend job interviews, to complete their pre-employment tasks, or to take work that is available, there will be consequences.

And, from June, MSD will begin work check-ins for job seekers who have been on benefit six months or longer, particularly young people.

These will focus on those who are work-ready but do not have a Work and Income case manager and will make sure beneficiaries are taking steps to find employment and are receiving support to help them into employment.

Failure to attend will ultimately mean a financial sanction could be applied.

On a totally different note, I was delighted recently to be able to spend some time in my electorate collecting money for the Heart Foundation.

They do great work educating people on how to avoid heart disease and helping to fund life-saving heart research.

They are certainly worthy of your support.

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