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Police Commissioner Announces New 'National Gang Unit'

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the national unit will work with police districts across the country

Police are setting up a National Gang Unit and frontline teams to tackle crime and intimidation by gangs.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said the national unit will work with police districts across the country.

New gang disruption units will be dedicated district teams to help identify, target and catch "priority offenders", he said.

Coster made the announcement during a media briefing, highlighting the significant impact of gang members on crime rates in the country, with gangs responsible for 8% of all violence and 18% of serious violence incidents.

The National Gang Unit will consist of 25-30 specialised personnel, with up to seven staff members dedicated to each police district nationwide. This initiative is part of Operation Cobalt, a strategic effort to tackle gang-related issues.

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Incoming legislation will provide the police with additional tools to address gang activities. Coster emphasised that while New Zealand remains one of the safest countries to live in, the changing gang landscape requires a proactive response from law enforcement.

Police Minister Mark Mitchell commended the establishment of the National Gang Unit as a crucial step in prioritising public safety. The unit will issue disruption and dispersal notices to prevent gangs from wearing patches and gathering, similar to measures implemented in Australia.

The announcement comes in response to a recent increase in gang-related violence, including a fatal shooting by a Killer Beez gang member in Ponsonby. The rise in gang activity has been further fueled by the influx of 501 deportees from Australia, leading to the establishment of new gangs like the Comancheros.

The new legislation, part of the government's efforts to crack down on gangs, will grant police warrantless search powers and impose penalties for wearing gang insignia in public. The law will also enable courts to issue non-consorting orders to prevent gang members from associating with each other.

The National Gang Unit is set to be operational by July 1. Coster emphasised that the unit's establishment would involve reprioritisation as well as new budget allocation, with a focus on enhancing public safety and reducing gang-related crime and intimidation.

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