147 gun­shot vic­tims in vi­o­lent surge

The New Zealand Herald - - Front Page - Lane Nichols

Asurge in gun vi­o­lence across Auck­land has seen nearly 150 gun­shot vic­tims in hos­pi­tal with se­ri­ous in­juries over four years.

The fig­ures have been de­scribed as “stag­ger­ing” by Manukau coun­cil­lor Alf Fili­paina — and an alarm­ing in­di­ca­tion of how many guns are cir­cu­lat­ing in the city.

He called on Auck­lan­ders to stand up and take ac­tion to pre­vent fur­ther vi­o­lence.

“Help us get these guns off the street.”

Sim­mer­ing gang ten­sions and il­licit drugs are re­spon­si­ble for much of the blood­shed, with more than a dozen shoot­ings rock­ing South Auck­land com­mu­ni­ties in the past 18 months alone.

At least four peo­ple have died and many more have been crit­i­cally in­jured in the re­cent gun vi­o­lence, spark­ing calls for a crack­down on or­gan­ised crime — and a po­lice plea for the pub­lic to stand against il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Fig­ures re­leased to the Her­ald un­der the Of­fi­cial In­for­ma­tion Act by the city’s three district health boards show 147 peo­ple have been treated for gun­shot wounds since 2016. It cost tax­pay­ers more than $2.6 mil­lion.

One of Auck­land’s high­est­pro­file shoot­ing vic­tims was Killer Beez gang pres­i­dent Josh Masters, gunned down at a Mt Welling­ton Har­ley David­son store in April.

Masters was ad­mit­ted to Auck­land City Hos­pi­tal in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion. A 39-yearold man was charged with at­tempted mur­der.

There have been eight shoot­ings this year alone in South Auck­land, killing four peo­ple and crit­i­cally in­jur­ing five oth­ers. The ca­su­al­ties in­cluded Joseph Siaosi, 23, who died on the lawn in front of his tara fam­ily home af­ter be­ing shot as he walked away from a con­fronta­tion.

The fright­en­ing se­quence of vi­o­lence has rocked the com­mu­nity, spark­ing calls for po­lice to crack down on gangs. In May Auck­land Mayor Phil Goff said most of the shoot­ings were gang- and drug-re­lated.

Fili­paina, a former po­lice of­fi­cer, said the level of vi­o­lence was among the worst he had seen in 60 years.

He was shocked by the hos­pi­tal­i­sa­tion fig­ures and planned to raise the is­sue with the Auck­land po­lice district com­man­der, se­nior po­lice staff and Goff.

Help us get these guns off the street. Alf Fili­paina, Manukau coun­cil­lor

“Those stats are stag­ger­ing. This gives an in­di­ca­tion of the weapons, the guns, that are in our com­mu­nity and be­ing used,” Fili­paina said. “This gives our com­mu­nity the hard facts be­cause you can’t hide from them. It’s re­al­ity. This is what’s hap­pen­ing.”

He said the level of vi­o­lence demon­strated why new rapid re­sponse armed po­lice teams were vi­tal to com­mu­nity safety. The teams are be­ing tri­alled in Can­ter­bury, Waikato and South Auck­land.

It also comes amid an over­haul of gun laws in re­sponse to the March 15 Christchur­ch mosque at­tacks, in which 51 peo­ple were shot dead.

Coun­ties Manukau De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Tofi­lau Faa Va’aelua ac­knowl­edged the alarm­ing trend.

Ar­rests had been made in each of the homi­cide cases and firearms re­cov­ered, he said. Po­lice had also ar­rested sus­pects for other non-fa­tal shoot­ings and re­cov­ered more guns.

“We ac­knowl­edge these in­ci­dents may be con­cern­ing for our com­mu­nity, but we re­it­er­ate that there has been a sub­stan­tial amount of in­ves­tiga­tive work . . . into these mat­ters.

“Po­lice have found a num­ber of cases al­legedly in­volved an ele­ment of or­gan­ised crime.

“While po­lice do our part, we can­not tackle the is­sue of or­gan­ised crime, firearms and vi­o­lence alone.”

Va’aelua urged the pub­lic to speak up, take a stand and report il­le­gal ac­tiv­ity.

Coun­ties Manukau DHB has seen the lion’s share of vic­tims, its gun in­jury fig­ures re­veal.

Po­lice . . . can­not tackle . . . or­gan­ised crime, firearms and vi­o­lence alone.

De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Tofi­lau Faa Va’aelua, Coun­ties Manukau po­lice

Since 2016, Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal has treated 79 pa­tients with firearms in­juries — 44 of them since Jan­uary last year.

Legs and feet were the most com­monly in­jured (25 pa­tients), fol­lowed by head, neck, shoul­der and face (20), hands (12), arms (9) ab­dom­i­nal (6), chest (4) and back (3).

The to­tal cost of treat­ing shoot­ing vic­tims at Mid­dle­more has jumped sig­nif­i­cantly in re­cent years.

Of the $1.33 mil­lion costs in­curred since 2016, more than $1m was since the start of last year — most of it in the past 11 months.

Mean­while, Auck­land DHB has treated 61 firearms vic­tims since 2016, cost­ing $1.3m — nearly all of that in the past two years.

Vic­tims suf­fered in­juries to their eyes, thigh, tes­ti­cles, chest, ab­domen, arm, ear and face, with an av­er­age treat­ment cost of $24,000 per pa­tient.

Waitem­ata¯ DHB treated just eight firearms vic­tims dur­ing the same pe­riod at Waitakere and North Shore hos­pi­tals.

Coun­ties Manukau DHB chief ex­ec­u­tive Fepulea’i Margie Apa told the Her­ald that the South Auck­land fig­ures in­cluded shoot­ing in­juries from “as­sault” as well as “ac­ci­den­tal” and “self-harm” in­ci­dents.

The DHB did not col­lect in­for­ma­tion on the types of firearms used, or the level of clin­i­cal sever­ity.

How­ever 13 of the 79 vic­tims were ad­mit­ted for more than five days — seven of them dur­ing this year.

“Emer­gency depart­ment spe­cial­ists are trained to deal with all types of trauma, ir­re­spec­tive of cause. These cases are of­ten man­aged in sim­i­lar ways to other in­juries caus­ing dam­age to or­gans/tis­sue.”

Treat­ment costs var­ied depend­ing on the in­jury lo­ca­tion and sever­ity, and the treat­ment needed.

Apa said the DHB worked with other agen­cies across South Auck­land to pro­mote healthy fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties. She was not aware of any spe­cific DHB-led ini­tia­tives deal­ing with gun vi­o­lence.

The spate of shoot­ings are seen as an alarm­ing in­di­ca­tion of how many guns are cir­cu­lat­ing in Auck­land.

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