New Zealand

Political consensus would be a good start

June 24, 2022 11:40 am

[Source: NZ Herald]

The concern about gangs and gang-related violence in New Zealand continues to be highly politicised.

Government ministers are under constant media scrutiny and political pressure, with both sides trying to look more staunch on crime than the other.

The problem is that these debates often lack history, context or vision.

Article continues after advertisement

Every generation panics intermittently about crime, especially when it concerns gangs and youth.

One of the earliest New Zealand examples was in 1842 when 123 male juveniles who had been transported from Parkhurst Prison in England began roaming the streets of Auckland.

Although a plea by the head of police for a prohibition on further deportations was accepted, the country realised it had a problem.

The following years saw the introduction of new legislation, such as that designed to deal with “vagabonds and rogues” (including the particularly troublesome “incorrigible” ones). This overlapped with generic laws designed to protect public order and keep criminals locked up.

Crime did not stop, but it did evolve. It was recognised as “organised” in the 1920s, well before the first post-WWII counterculture emerged.

But the country was so shocked by youth behaviour in the 1950s that a dedicated committee on “Moral Delinquency in Children and Adolescents” was established.

Its findings on the sexual morality of teenagers were posted to every home in the land.

It was not a huge success. By the late 1950s there were around 41 “milkbar cowboy” gangs in Auckland and 17 in Wellington.

By the early 1960s, more enduring brands like the Mongrel Mob and a New Zealand chapter of the Hells Angels were beginning to put down roots.