Andrew Coster announces Strike Force Raptor-style national gang unit to address violent crime

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has announced a Strike Force Raptor-style police unit to deal with gang crime.

Coalition leaders National had long called for a dedicated gang unit to deal with such offending.

Strike Force Raptor was a unit introduced in the Australian state of NSW in 2009, promising to take a zero-tolerance approach to gang-related offending.

Coster said in a statement gangs members committed "a disproportionate amount of crime and harm in New Zealand".

"A new national gang unit is to be established to enable the continuation of this work and build our operational capability further. The unit will work with police districts across the country, drawing on the successes of Operation Cobalt and other coordinated responses to gang funerals and other gang activity."

Operation Cobalt was a dedicated gang-related crime team set up in Auckland in 2022.

Coster said the new national unit was "a determined effort to continue applying pressure on gangs to disrupt and prevent gang-related crime, disorder and intimidation".

"Incoming legislation will provide police with new tools to respond to the harm caused by gangs, and help ensure communities feel safe. The national gang unit will help ensure our officers can effectively enforce the intent of the legislation.

"To further our frontline capability, we will also be investing in new gang disruption units. These will be dedicated district teams to help identify, target and catch priority offenders, and maintain a focused view of the gang environment."

Asked at a press conference whether the gang unit would be similar to Strike Force Raptor, Police Minister Mark Mitchell said he hoped it would be.

He said Strike Force Raptor was "very popular" in Australia.

"Normally, when the gangs start to break out in gang warfare, the communities immediately ask to have Strike Force Raptor come in - they solely focus on gang harm and gang offending and organised crime."

Police planned to launch the dedicated national operation from July, Coster said.

"Policing gangs and serious offenders is an all-of-police priority. The new gang units will boost our focus and capability but they are not working alone - our whole frontline is involved in preventing the crime and harm caused by methamphetamine, organised crime and gangs, whether through road policing, organised crime investigations, prosecutions or prevention activity.

"At a time in the world when safety and feeling safe is an evolving picture in many countries, New Zealand is still one of the safest countries to live. But the gang landscape is changing and police will continue to adapt to meet these challenges head-on.

"Ultimately, it's about supporting our frontline to keep everyone safe and deliver the best results for our communities."