National ponders 'Strike Force Raptor' police unit to 'harass gangs' in policy proposal

"National isn't fooled by gang PR campaigns," is the message from Simon Bridges in the party's latest policy proposal document on law and order.

National is considering copying an Australian state by forming a high-level 'Strike Force Raptor' police taskforce that would "tackle gang crime" if elected in 2020.

New South Wales established a Strike Force Raptor unit in 2009 to target "groups and individuals who engage in serious and organised crime".

Bridges is now asking the public if it would be a good idea for New Zealand to follow suit.

"We're proposing a new police unit which would harass and interfere with gang activity, banning gang patches and revoking parole for those who associate with gangs," Bridges said.

Banning gang patches in public has already been proposed by National, as well as blocking gang members from receiving a benefit if they can't prove they don't have illegal income or assets. 

But a specialised unit within the police tasked with cracking down on gangs would make it more difficult for gangs to operate if a National Government copied the New South Wales model.

"If someone was punched outside a nightclub by a gang member, the unit would take over the case," National's police spokesperson Brett Hudson said.

"We won't tolerate gangs peddling misery. We will release a comprehensive gang plan next year to crack down on them."

The New South Wales taskforce was accused by a lawyer earlier this year of intense intimidation and stalking, in a report by the Sydney Morning Herald.

An NZME investigation revealed the taskforce was established following a bloody brawl inside Sydney Airport in 2009 involving the Hells Angels and the Comancheros - leading to several gang members being deported to New Zealand.

Bridges has been promoting the taskforce on Twitter, sharing a Nine News Sydney broadcast from March showing a Comanchero gang member being brutally arrested.

The news reporter says the taskforce is responsible for about 5000 arrests in the past decade.

Some of National's law & order proposals include:

  • Ban all gang patches in public places
  • Give police more powers to search homes and cars of gang members for guns
  • Create new sentences for violent gang crime
  • Remove parole for offenders who are members of gangs
  • Remove concurrent sentencing option in some circumstances
  • No parole for murderers who refuse to reveal the location of their victims' bodies
  • Ensure sexual violence cases are dealt with within 12 months
  • Wipe young offender convictions at the age of 18 if they pass NCEA Level Two
  • Higher penalties for young offenders of serious crime
  • Introduce roadside drug testing
  • Increase penalties for synthetic drug suppliers

Youth offending is a high priority for National in its policy document.

Youth criminals will be able to have their convictions wiped at the age of 18 if they meet a list of criteria - the first being they can only have been charged and convicted once.

The offence must be one which carries a maximum prison sentence of no more than two years.

The offender would also have to get NCEA Level Two and the literacy and numeracy components, and actively be looking for part time work.

"People who have NCEA Level 2 are more likely to go on to lead better lives and are less likely to commit further crimes," National's Corrections spokesperson David Bennett said.

If they are charged with more than one offence in the same incident then the judge will have discretion of whether or not to allow the young offender to be eligible.

National is also proposing a new 'Young Serious Offender' (YSO) category for youth criminals.

They would need to be under 18 and have committed an offence which carries a maximum sentence of 14 years or more.

They would be subject to tougher penalties and guardians with YSOs in their care wouldn't be able to have had a conviction for 10 years.

National's policy document also explores the prospect of night and weekend courts to "try and deal with more cases without lengthy delays".

National's courts spokesperson Chris Penk said he wants to see Justices of the Peace used more for minor offences and traffic cases to free up judges time and courts used at night and on weekends.

Legislation for roadside drug testing regime is also promised by National within 100 days of forming a government.

It would also increase the penalties for those caught supplying synthetics to eight years imprisonment.

"National is the party of law and order," Bridges said. "We're doing the hard work now so we can hit the ground running in 2020."

On Sunday, National also revealed it wants to make education, training or employment for prisoners who are serving sentences of two years or more compulsory.