Cantabrians want to know how gang patch ban will be enforced

Photo: File image / RNZ
Photo: File image / RNZ
Public opinion on the coalition Government's planned crackdown on gang patches is divided, with some Cantabrians hoping it will make New Zealand safer while others have concerns over how it will be enforced.

The government is proposing legislation which will ban gang patches in all public places; give police special powers to break up gang gatherings; and allow courts to stop gang members associating with each other.

The policy expands on existing restrictions in schools, hospitals and courthouses, and the legislation is expected to be introduced to Parliament in the next few days.

Opinion on the planned policy was divided in Christchurch, with some on the main street of New Brighton questioning the idea.

Chris Robertson did not think it was even enforceable.

"From the point of view of the patches, if it worked it would be great, because people are intimidated when they see the gang patches, so to not have them in the public would be great. I just don't see how they can enforce it without time and effort that should be going elsewhere," she said.

A New Brighton man - who did not wish to be named - believed better public mental health support and recreational drug laws would be more effective.

"The bigger issue is we have failed drug laws on all the illicit drug trade and if we're really honest about it, adults should be able to do what they want. The gangs are just filling in the gap for that market," he said.

"They're getting a bad rap for doing that work or whatever it is. That's their version of the mahi. If that wasn't there, they'd probably be doing something else, I guess."

Another man said gangs were not really an issue in the area.

"I don't really feel intimidated by them. They do their thing, we do our thing. I've never had any trouble with them," he said.

But he said he saw fewer gang members in Christchurch than he had seen on a trip to Wellington.

"It is a different vibe. We were at a festival and there were heaps of patched crew there, and I'm not used to seeing that as much. But then someone told me that that's quite normal up in the North Island."

'They should be focusing on other things'

Over in Linwood, opinions also varied outside Eastgate Mall.

Trina said the policy had pros and cons.

She was in favour of the public being made safer, but also believed people should be able to wear what they wanted.

"If they're not bothering anyone, then it doesn't really matter what they're wearing. But if they're going to fine them, how is that going to make a difference in reality?" Trina asked.

"Like you can get a speeding ticket, you can still go that speed but you're going to get a speeding ticket. How is it going to actually stop people from doing that? I'm a bit up and down... it is what it is."

Laura Webb thought policing gangs so tightly was uncontrollable and said she did not think it would work.

"I just think that at the moment, they should be focusing on other things. It's very financially hard at the moment."

The government should be focused on financial support for those who needed it, Webb said.

However, one Addington resident, who did not want be identified, was completely in favour of the move, describing it as "positive".

"I have come across situations where gangs are passing through [where we are], and it scares us, even though they are not going to harm us, they are minding their own business," he said.

Police had previously considered trying to ban gang patches in Christchurch's New Brighton suburb.