The ACT Party wants to take away some gang members’ freedoms by adopting “gang injunction orders,” which might prevent them from entering particular locations or engaging in specified activities.
The opposition party also proposes tighter regulations on welfare recipients, prohibiting them from using their benefits to buy drink, tobacco, or gamble.
The policy suggestions are contained in a law and order policy document released by the ACT Party on Tuesday morning at Wellington’s Danger Danger Bar.
It comes after the government’s financing of a Mongrel Mob-led drug rehabilitation programme in Central Hawke’s Bay came under increased scrutiny.
The injunction orders, according to ACT justice spokesperson Nicole McKee, will allow police to “smash the gangs” and reduce their risk to the public.
“Gangs are responsible for harm and chaos across the country. They peddle drugs, are violent and intimidating. They cause misery in our communities.”Under the policy, police could apply to the courts to slap restrictions on any person on the National Gang List, as long as they had a “reasonable belief” the individual posed a risk of dealing drugs or committing gang-related violence.
“The injunction order could then be used to prohibit bad behaviours including being in a particular location or associating with particular people,” McKee said.
“It could also be used to require positive actions, like attending rehabilitation.”
The orders have been used in parts of the United States since the 1980s and in the United Kingdom since 2011.
Evidence for the policy’s effectiveness abroad is mixed. Some studies have recorded a significant drop in violent crime following the introduction of gang injunctions, though other research suggests the benefit does not persist in the long term.
Critics argue the policy simply drives crime into other neighbourhoods and increases animosity toward police.
The American Civil Liberties Union, in 2018, described the orders as “ineffective policing tools that primarily serve to criminalise young Black and Latino men”.
“Gang injunctions restrict people’s freedom without a shred of due process, on dubious ‘proof,’ and with no real public safety benefit,” according to an ACLU representative.
Beneficiaries on the National Gang List would be subject to further limitations under ACT, limiting how they might spend their welfare funds.
Karen Chhour, ACT social development spokesman, said the benefit would be issued on an electronic card that could not be used for gambling, alcohol, or tobacco purchases.
“The money provided by taxpayers will need to go towards food and other essentials,” Chhour said.
“The children affected by gang criminality are not at fault and deserve support. This policy tips the balance towards the child and away from crime.”
ACT last year campaigned on a policy to introduce electronic income management for all people receiving Jobseeker Support.
ACT leader David Seymour said Labour’s “soft on crime approach” had fertilised a growing gang problem in New Zealand.
“We’ve watched as patched gang members have taken over our streets like it’s them and not law-abiding taxpayers who own the place,” Seymour said.
“This is the dangerous side of Jacinda [Ardern]’s kindness.”