Auckland gun violence: Mayor Phil Goff wants a police crackdown on drug trafficking

Auckland’s mayor has called on police to boost the number of frontline officers and crack down on “lucrative” drug trafficking and organised crime as the city wrestles with spiralling gun violence.

Phil Goff met this week with Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims to communicate his concerns about the rising number of shootings.

Police Minister Poto Williams confirmed she has also been briefed about the level of Auckland gun crime. She is urging Auckland residents to stay calm and “look out for each other” as police work to quell the bloodshed.

In a letter to Williams last week – obtained by the Weekend Herald – Goff said he was worried about the impact of 501 deportees from Australia, the growth in gang activity and violent criminal offending.

He said he was concerned by Herald revelations that 355 people have been shot across the city in the last fives, and warned an increase in gang numbers “will make the situation worse”.

“Most [shooting victims] have been from Counties Manukau,” Goff wrote. “You will also be aware of the most recent spate of shooting incidents across Ōtara.

“I know there is no one solution to address this issue, but we do need to actively implement the Government’s increase in police staffing across Auckland, particularlySouth Auckland.

“Also important is the active role Police are playing in the pursuit of proceeds of crime under the Act, and in trying to defuse gang tensions.”

Goff asked Williams what initiatives the Government planned “to help curb this level of firearms violence”.

The letter follows a spate of firearms incidents last month involving rival gangs the Killer Beez and Tribesmen in South Auckland – with at least five gang-related shootings in two days.

Armed police were brought into Ōtara to counter the outbreak, before the two gangs reached an apparent truce to curb the bloodshed last week.

The Herald has also obtained a letter Goff wrote in April last year to former Police Minister Stuart Nash.

He highlighted two South Auckland shootings over the Easter break and said there had been more than a dozen such incidents in the previous year, some fatal.

“The level of shootings and homicides in the area is disproportionately high and is causing concern by members of the community about their safety.”

Goff told Nash that firearms used in the shootings were largely held illegally. He called for further firearms reform, including the introduction of a firearms register to track such weapons and control sales to unlicensed purchasers.

New gun laws were enacted by the Government last year in the aftermath of the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Goff also warned that many of the shootings were linked to gang feuds and drug trafficking – highlighting the need to crackdown on organised crime.

“I would ask that efforts to deal with drug sales and criminal activity be stepped up,” Goff wrote.

“I would also like your assurance that resourcing to Police in Counties Manukau will be proportionate to the level of shootings and homicides which have occurred in the last year.

“I look forward to gaining reassurance from you that this is receiving the highest priority.”

In a statement this week, Williams said she acknowledged those communities affected by gun violence, and confirmed she had received a briefing on the spate of Auckland shootings.

“New Zealand is a country of strong, resilient communities that have each other’s back. And that’s why I do urge New Zealanders to remain calm, and to look out for each other.

“The Government will continue to work with the community and with the police to prevent, disrupt, and dismantle the harm caused by firearms.”

Williams said she was focused on the Government’s “ambitious” firearms reform programme to stop guns falling into the wrong hands.

“Already, we have banned military-style semi-automatic weapons, magazines and parts, taken 62,000 prohibited firearms out of circulation, and passed the Arms Legislation Bill.

“But there’s more to do. The next step will be implementing a comprehensive firearms register to keep track of firearms in the community.”

Goff said Tims updated him this week on police efforts to counter the rise in shootings and make Auckland communities safer.

“In response to the recent Ōtara events, Police report that they are still investigating a number of the incidents although a number of arrests have already been made.

“Police said they are committed to these investigations and have allocated considerable staffing resource to the investigation.”

Police acknowledged there has been a strong community response to the surge in gun crime, Goff said.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers told the Herald police have zero tolerance for gun crime and are committed to holding offenders to account.

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