President's Column: The growth of organised crime

NZPA - Greg O'Connor | Fri July 1st, 2016

Sometimes, one event will bring to public attention a slow-burning issue that those directly involved with can clearly see, but which is not obvious to the general population. The seizure in the Far North of nearly 500 kilograms of methamphetamine is a case in point.

Firstly, we must congratulate the Far North staff who were involved. They took some good raw bully from the public and, using their own initiative and little else, seized the drugs and locked up the offenders at the front end of the operation. Just good old-fashioned coppery, as it has been described.

But what it has highlighted is: P has not gone away since the middle-class kids from Remuera moved on, possibly to other drugs: organised crime is well entrenched, despite the apparent ineptness of the foot soldiers in the Far North case; and there is a lot going on in the crime world that we know little about.

Public discussion around the seizure coincided with concerns about P houses. Anyone with a rental property, in particular, and those buying and selling houses are likely to be hit in the pocket for another compliance test, and clean-up costs if residue of the drug is detected.

An issue that has been brushed off as affecting only those in the low-rent end of town is now beginning to affect the whole of our society.

Generally, the investment required to fix these slow-burning issues is only forthcoming when the voter base of the incumbent government is affected. I predict the Government will soon start to feel the heat from under-investment in Police and, in particular, tackling organised crime.

The police minister said publicly that she has told the Commissioner to focus on burglaries, at the same time as more than 100 staff are being removed from road policing.

Unfortunately, the increase in burglaries is a symptom of the very organised crime issue that those P seizures and P houses are highlighting.

Having visited most Police districts in the past month, it is abundantly clear to me that organised criminal gangs are growing in influence, number and sphere of intimidation, from small towns through to metropolitan areas.

Investigators are struggling under a mountain of investigations into sexual abuse and family violence, and few resources are going into preventing the growth of organised crime.

Now that the symptoms are potentially impacting on the Government, we may get the necessary investment. A good formula would be for each district to get the same proportional increase in staff that Counties Manukau did in 2008, an increase that made a substantial difference there.

I predict a law and order election looming in 2017. It’s not more powers that will be needed, but more people. They can’t arrive soon enough for commanders who are struggling to protect their communities.

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