NZ Election 2020: National still keen on police 'gang unit', wants to relocate ex-prisoners to have fresh start

The National Party has released its law and order policies which include a proposal to help fund the relocation of recently released prisoners so they can have a fresh start. 

The policy document also shows National is still keen to have a "dedicated gang unit" to "disrupt the operation of gangs" - an idea proposed last year modelled on the Strike Force Raptor gang unit in New South Wales. 

National's 'Clean Start' policy would build on the 'Out of the Gate' programme started by the previous National-led Government which provided wraparound support to people after they were released from prison. 

That programme did not support ex-prisoners to move to a new location, and National says it would enable that by pumping $30 million into the revamped 'Clean Start' policy over a four year period - up from $5 million per year under the previous version. 

The programme would start off limited to a maximum of 500 prisoners and the results would be assessed. If an offender had dependent children or partners, they could be allowed to relocate with them if Corrections was satisfied it would not risk re-offending. 

Corrections would work with community providers such as Goodwood Park Healthcare Group and National Urban Māori Authority - providers who delivered the 'Out of the Gate' policy - to support the relocation of those recently released from prison. 

The programme would be made available to those serving a sentence of two years or less or who have been on remand for more than 60 days. 

National says it wants to return to using the 'Social Investment' approach in the justice sector - using information and technology to better understand the people who need public services and what works, and then adjusting services accordingly.

National leader Judith Collins said on Tuesday the party's law and order policy is "simple".

"Victims should get justice and criminals should be held accountable for the harm they cause, while also being rehabilitated into contributing members of our society." 

What else is National proposing?

National unveiled a range of law and order proposals in November 2019 under former leader Simon Bridges, including a plan to introduce a high-level police taskforce to tackle gang crime. 

The Strike Force Raptor proposal was ridiculed on social media, but the National Party is still keen on the idea, with plans to resource police to form a "dedicated gang unit to disrupt the operation of gangs" and work with police to target crime. 

Police data shows that as of March this year, more than 7100 people were recorded as a patched gang member, up from 7027 in December 2019. 

National wants to give police greater powers to search homes and cars of violent gang members for firearms through Firearm Prohibition Orders

Some of National's other policies:

  • Expand mental health services within the police.
  • Tighten border controls with increased searching of containers and mail to prevent drugs coming into New Zealand 
  • Expand the use of specialist drug and alcohol courts.
  • Set a target for sexual violence offences to be dealt with within 12 months.
  • Introduce a new category of Young Serious Offenders to give police more tools in dealing with teenage and young adult offenders.
  • Change the victim notification register to make it opt-out rather than opt-in.
  • Amend the Arms Legislation Bill around the regulation of clubs and ranges, and exemptions for pest control operations, sports shooting, and collectors.
  • Create new criminal offences targeting gang crime and introduce tougher sentences for gang-related crime, as well as tougher parole conditions for ganger members who continue to associate with gangs after release.
  • If someone is identified as member of a gang, they have to prove their income came from a legitimate source, rather than the police proving their income came from an illegitimate source.
  • Ban all gang insignia in public places.
  • Introduce additional drug dogs at airports and ports.
  • Increase funding for education and drug treatment in prison.
  • Ensure that all prisons are working prisons, so prisoners are either in work, education or training.