Saturday, February 08, 2014

New approach to gangs

There's an article (not on-line) in today's DomPost about the government's intended new approach to gangs. Apparently Anne Tolley and the Deputy police commissioner went to LA to see what successful strategies look like. One of them is a "charter school open 365 days a year".

It's quite a long read with input from gang members and their families, some support and some cynicism. The Police commissioner however makes the point that he has a "secret weapon". That's the older generation of gang members who want a better life for their children.

"We are not going to back off...that's our job. But if people want to try something different, establish a better way for the young generation and they are sincere...then we need to show we are sincere about that too."

There are apparently 3,500 gang members in NZ (a good many of them will be incarcerated surely?) and police research estimates that one gang family can cover

"$5 million (cost includes crime and welfare); 423 victims; 14 members; 3 generations and 93 years spent in jail."

I'm ambivalent about the subject having spent a bit of time with a gang member who wanted me to paint him and his kids. Which I did and thoroughly enjoyed. He wanted out but it's hellish hard. It's personally very dangerous for someone to turn their back. Last I knew he was getting there with support from non-gang extended family. Another friend described how she'd visited prison to pay a 'gang boss' to release her partner. Could be true. Unbelievably, the partner went back to the gang later and wanted their son to join as well.

Only the communities from which gangs come can make an end to the violence and victimisation. Perhaps if police and other government agencies want to work with them, matters will improve. I don't know. Gangs just seem to provide an outlet for something dark and desperate in some people's psyches. As Jarrod Gilbert  points out, they often bite the hand that feeds. There must be some stronger instinct not to be tamed.

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