Auckland councillor Alf Filipaina calls for action as communities live in fear amid shootings over gang turf

An Auckland councillor is calling for action as communities live in fear of being caught up in a turf war between the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs. 

Overnight police were called to seven shootings that are believed to be linked to the gangs. The first four took place last night in Ōtara, Papatoetoe, Flat Bush, Papakura, and Te Atatū. It's understood two further shootings happened early on Wednesday morning, with one on a street in Mt Albert and the second on Rathgar Road in Henderson. 

Manukau Ward councillor Alf Filipaina told AM on Wednesday local communities are living in fear of being caught in the middle. 

"My understanding is that it is [a turf war between the gangs]. There was a deal brokered last year, that is obviously no longer in place but that was brokered between the community, youth workers and church ministers," Filipaina told AM's Ryan Bridge. 

He said the increase in violence is being caused by tension over the gangs' territories and it needs to be stopped. 

"[It's about] their turf, the ground they're at and as always they're always looking at selling and pushing drugs and everything else so it's about the patch they're in. 

"They [locals] are scared and I don't blame them. That's why we need a community approach but more importantly for me, we need to get the family members of those people, the gang members who have preferred to carry the firearms and use them, get them off the streets - it's so important."

Earlier in the show, National leader Christopher Luxon called for a special gang unit - similar to the previously suggested Strike Force Raptor - to tackle the increase in gang crime. 

"The reality is that gangs have increased by 40 percent under this Government, we have just over 8000 gang members and we've got just over 10,000 police officers, we've had 2500 501s returns and 50 percent have reoffended. I think there are a number of things the Government needs to be doing to cut down on this," Luxon told Bridge. 

Luxon said along with a dedicated unit, police should have warrantless search powers to go into gang pads whenever they like to track down illegal guns. 

"I would have taken the $210 million that we are spending on a gun register for legal firearms owners and I would have redirected it into firearm prohibition orders so you have police with warrantless search powers so they can actually go into gang pads and go after illegal guns. 

"The second thing I would do is have a dedicated gang unit so every time there is a gang infringement whether it's a parking fine, whether it's a speeding fine, whether it's a building consent at a gang pad you would have the gang unit deal with it."

When asked whether the gang unit would be similar to Strike Force Raptor, Luxon said that was "kind of" what he was talking about. 

However, Luxon stopped short of saying the unit would be permanently armed, instead saying officers would need easy access.

"You want the police to be able to have access very, very quickly [to firearms]. We are now in a place actually where 75 percent of police are saying they want to be permanently armed and that's a conversation we should think about before we just go say, 'Yes that would be a good idea'. That situation has changed, the risk has changed for sure."

The National Party floated the idea of the unit in November 2020 before backtracking after criticism. 

The idea was modelled on a unit in New South Wales and promised to take a zero-tolerance approach to gang-related offending. 

It comes after the Government revealed a $600 million package aimed at addressing an increase in crime in this year's Budget. Much of the package will be used to tackle gang violence including $100 million in funding, boosting police numbers and an extension to rehabilitation programmes. 

Police are also planning to launch a dedicated operation across Auckland, with smaller teams across Aotearoa, to tackle growing gang violence and intimidating behaviour. It's been dubbed 'Operation Cobalt' and will begin in June. 

It follows Operation Tauwhiro, which was extended by six months late last year. Operation Tauwhiro focused on disrupting firearms-related violence by gangs.

Police told Newshub no one was injured in the shootings and investigations are ongoing.