Town to tackle gang

The Southland Times - - Front Page - Stuff reporter

The Mon­grel Mob has had a pres­ence in Mataura for many years but an in­crease in the num­ber of gang mem­bers liv­ing in the area has the mayor and com­mu­nity lead­ers con­cerned.

Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks said there has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in num­bers, not just in Gore and Mataura but through­out South­land.

‘‘I’ve had it bought to my at­ten­tion not just by the po­lice but from other peo­ple in var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties. Some peo­ple are fear­ful of peo­ple in gang patches.’’

A re­port from the coun­cil’s so­cial ca­pac­ity and health co­or­di­na­tor Ber­nadette Hunt, which will be tabled at a Gore District Coun­cil meet­ing to­mor­row night, says the in­crease in gang mem­bers is a ‘‘co­or­di­nated, planned ef­fort by the Mon­grel Mob to grow its pres­ence in the south’’.

The re­port sug­gests form­ing a com­mu­nity work­ing group to im­ple­ment ini­tia­tives to tackle the gang prob­lem.

Hicks said the ini­tia­tives weren’t about ‘‘run­ning the gang out of town’’.

‘‘There’s a place for ev­ery­one in so­ci­ety and we’re re­ally just be­ing proac­tive and un­der­stand­ing the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the in­crease in num­bers. ‘‘Fore­warned is fore­armed.’’ Some of the ini­tia­tives the work­ing group may im­ple­ment in­clude host­ing a meth aware­ness con­fer­ence, a ru­ral se­cu­rity cam­paign fo­cused on gun se­cu­rity, es­tab­lish­ing a ‘‘patch ban’’ in shops, and co-op­er­a­tion be­tween po­lice, real es­tate agents and prop­erty agents to man­age the pur­chase and rental of houses and build­ings in key ar­eas to en­sure that gangs are pre­vented from ‘‘tak­ing over’’ key lo­ca­tions, build­ing an over­whelm­ing pres­ence, or driv­ing oth­ers out.

An ‘It’s Not OK’ cam­paign may be es­tab­lished, where com­mu­nity ‘‘cham­pi­ons’’ are trained to iden­tify and sup­port women and fam­i­lies who are strug­gling with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Hair­dressers have been par­tic­u­larly and suc­cess­fully tar­geted to be cham­pi­ons in other lo­ca­tions, the re­port says.

The work­ing group would in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tion from the coun­cil, Mataura Com­mu­nity Board, po­lice and Hokonui Ru­nanga.

Other rep­re­sen­ta­tives could in­clude rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the Mataura Marae, Youth Coun­cil, the shear­ing in­dus­try, men­tal health ser­vices, Sal­va­tion Army, Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment, the towns’ GoRe­tail group, the South­ern District Health Board, and peo­ple from the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor.

Mataura res­i­dent Amelia Con­roy said although there was a gang pres­ence in the town, they had al­ways had that. ‘‘Ev­ery town has gangs but like I said they’ve never done any­thing to me.’’

‘‘If we need some­thing done at the marae, they’ll come help.’’

Con­roy works at the ko­hunga in Mataura she said she of­ten saw known gang mem­bers pick­ing up chil­dren. ‘‘They take off their patch then come in.’’

Coun­cil­lors, at the meet­ing, will also dis­cuss spend­ing $9200 to join ‘Safe in the South’, South­land’s Safe Com­mu­ni­ties pro­gramme, which en­com­passes In­ver­cargill city and South­land district.

Through Safe in the South, agen­cies, NGOs and com­mu­nity groups are con­nected and work to­gether to drive ini­tia­tives that im­prove com­mu­nity safety through four work­streams: Road and Fire, Fam­ily, Work­place and Com­mu­nity and Youth and Al­co­hol.

‘‘There’s a place for ev­ery­one in so­ci­ety and we’re re­ally just be­ing proac­tive and un­der­stand­ing the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the in­crease in num­bers. Fore­warned is fore­armed.’’

Gore district mayor Tracy Hicks

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