Police willing to meet gangs about peace talks

Anne Tolley.
Anne Tolley.
Police are willing to enter talks with the two biggest gangs in the country about turning their backs on crime, as Black Power and Mongrel Mob leaders meet to broker a peace plan.

Other changes are also forecast in gangland, as the Government prepares to unveil a new plan to deal with gangs, which Police Minister Anne Tolley hopes to present to the public before the election.

Mrs Tolley said yesterday officials from government departments were working on a plan to tackle gangs. She hoped to have plans before Cabinet next month.

It required a radical approach, she said.

There would be no ''soft-on-gangs'' proposition, but ''we've learned arresting and imprisoning ... you don't get rid of gangs''.

Last week in Dunedin, the Notorious Mongrel Mob and Black Power gave a joint submission at the Dunedin City Council annual plan hearings, asking councillors to consider giving them a contract to maintain some of the council's green spaces.

''We have all had our colourful histories and we are just trying to change things, to be part of the community,'' Mangu Kaha (Black Power) leader Albert Epere told the hearing.

''It's not about us; it's about our kids. We have made a path and now we are trying to change it.''

While sceptical of talk of the motivations of gangs coming together, Mrs Tolley said: ''My message to them is 'great, if they've seen the error of their ways, we'll work with them'. There's a lot of talk and what we'd like to see is action.''

The shift in mood is also revealed in TV3's 3rd Degree programme tonight, which captures peace talks between influential Black Power and Mongrel Mob presidents.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told 3rd Degree his officers would try to find a way to work with those who wanted change.

''If they can show their own genuineness through their own actions and influencing their own whanau and family for a different way of life, then that will go a long way - but we're prepared to do what we need to do in that area as well.''

Senior figures in other gangs told 3rd Degree they saw no future in continued opposition.

Founding Black Power member and national president Reithu Harris said there was a growing understanding with the Mongrel Mob and a desire to get past crime, rivalry and violence.

He said 99% of both groups were Maori and ''we're all virtually interrelated''.

''I think it's merging whanaus together - in a positive way - not to merge to do drugs, not to merge to do crime. I'm totally against that.

''But if we are merging for the positive things in life, which is going to affect the next generations of our children, then I'll support that.''

3rd Degree, TV3 at 8.40pm tonight.

- David Fisher

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