Praise for DCC’s gang contracting

A leading gang researcher says the Dunedin City Council should not give up on working with gang members after it suspended its contract with a Black Power leader.

Gang researcher and University of Canterbury sociology lecturer Jarrod Gilbert's comments come after the council's contract with Albert Epere was suspended when it emerged he was charged with driving dangerously on State Highway 1, north of Dunedin, recently.

Epere appeared in court last week and was remanded to reappear in court today, charged with possessing cannabis for supply and another drug-related offence.

Dr Gilbert said it would be a shame if the development stopped it and other New Zealand councils working with gang members.

"It was a brave move by the council and they ought to be applauded, and just because there has been a hiccup here doesn't mean it's not the right move for the future.''

The development would likely leave councils "gun shy'', but people should not give up on the idea because of one incident.

"The problem we have got with turning people's lives from anti-social to pro-social is that it doesn't happen with a prick of a finger.

"What it highlights is that when you take bold moves to try to work with hard to reach people, then from time to time it isn't going to work."

Mayor Dave Cull said he was unable to provide much comment on the contract with Epere as it was "operational matter''.

However, the suspension of the contract had not caused him to lose faith in the idea of "social procurement'', Mr Cull said.

The "responsible'' way the development had been dealt with had in fact given him more confidence in the process.

"Social procurement is a lot broader than a one-off contract to a gang member.''

It could, for example, involve giving a contract to disabled people.

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