Gang numbers: Number of gang members skyrocket since Labour entered Government

Newshub can reveal our gang numbers have increased by more than 50 percent in the last five years.

The age bracket breakdown shows where recruitment's skyrocketing, and it's young people joining in droves. 

Māhera Maihi is a youth worker in Manukau and runs Mā Te Huruhuru, and has seen one too many tamariki caught up in the gang life.

"That becomes their superficial family, that family becomes someone who protects them," said Maihi.

She knows that cycle all too well.

"I was raised from a whanau, a father who was in gangs, so I lived a lot of that when I was younger and I didn't want that to perpetuate," said Maihi.

Figures obtained by Newshub show it's a cycle more and more Kiwis are getting caught up in. 

In 2017, the National Gang List (NGL) had 5050 people on it. Fast forward to the end of August 2022 and that's shot up to 7835 - a 55 percent increase. 

One of the age brackets with the biggest spikes is 18 to 25-year-olds. It's gone from 514 to 898 in the same five-year period - a 75 percent increase.

"[It's] incredibly concerning, gangs reaching into younger and younger people. What it tells us is we've got a Government that's soft on crime," said National leader Christopher Luxon. 

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said: "Police have a part to play and we're playing our part, but we need the whole of the community actually to look at why young people are doing this in the first place."

There was also an 82 percent increase in 26 to 35-year-olds, but perhaps most startling is the under-18s. In 2017 there were only five on the list, today there are 16, a 220 percent jump, and those numbers are likely even worse. 

"The numbers will be significantly higher…it signals there's acute disconnection between government and communities," said Maihi. 

Gang expert Jarrod Gilbert also said the gang numbers can't be relied on, but for different reasons. 

"It's artificially inflated so it tends to grow far more quickly than it comes down because you can count the people entering the gang very easily, but you can't count them leaving. It's much more difficult," he said.

But the NGL is the only dataset we have. It also shows in the last year, the overall numbers have dropped by around 200.

Asked how you can get off the list, Cmmr Coster said: "You can die."

But there is also another way.

"We receive credible evidence that you are no longer a member of a gang."

Police Minister Chris Hipkins said the increase in recent years is because gangs are being more actively policed.

But Maihi said more needs to be done at a community level to have an impact.

"We're under-resourced. We try to do as much as we can but we only ever receive crumbs."

It's going to take more than crumbs to tackle New Zealand's gang problem. 

Newshub's crunched the National Gangs List numbers, and they paint an interesting picture.

While Bay of Plenty has the most patched gang members, Auckland’s numbers are actually overall higher because it looks to be on a recruitment drive, Auckland has the highest number of gang prospects in New Zealand.

Another development we’ve had today, is around ram raids - Newshub’s had confirmation Police Minister Chris Hipkins will finally be meeting with the Dairy and Business Owners group on Wednesday this week in Auckland, a meeting the group’s been calling for for months now.

Newshub is told once they’re in the room on Wednesday, they’ll be demanding answers and action to their seemingly never ending ram raid nightmare.