Police Minister Mark Mitchell's warning to gangs after recent spate of crime

Police Minister Mark Mitchell says New Zealand has a big crime problem to deal with, but the Government is committed to fighting it after a spate of violent incidents to start the new year.  

Over the last week, a security guard was stabbed at New World Mt Roskill, two different Michael Hill jewellery stores were targeted on consecutive days in smash-and-grabs, a small group of gang members or associates had an altercation in the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department waiting room where one person was assaulted and six Mongrel Mob members allegedly bashed and stabbed a senior Head Hunter at a North Island petrol station in a chance encounter.  

The National Party was very vocal during the 2023 Election campaign about cracking down on crime.   

As part of the coalition Government's 100-day plan, they've committed to "restoring law and order", which includes introducing legislation to ban gang patches, stopping gang members from gathering in public and beginning work to crack down on serious youth offending. 

Mitchell told AM on Monday morning crime is a big problem in New Zealand, but the coalition Government is committed to dealing with it.   

"We know we've got a big problem to deal with. We are committed to dealing with it and we've got a big work programme this year to make sure that we get on top of it," he told AM co-host Melissa Chan-Green.  

He believes the recent spate of violent incidents and the rise in crime over the last few years is down to Aotearoa having a very "permissive environment".   

"That attack yesterday, which was in my patch, it was in the Silverdale Mall... I did a welfare check of the shops up there. Without a doubt, this hits the communities hard and we're committed to getting on top of it," he said.   

"Like I said, it's been a very permissive environment over the last six years. We have to make that environment a lot less permissive for these offenders."  

The alleged attack by the six Mongrel Mob members on a senior Head Hunter has sparked fears that a wider conflict could break out between the two gangs.    

Mitchell told AM he has been in contact recently with Police Commissioner Andrew Coster about the recent rise in gang tensions.   

He warned the two gangs police would crack down hard on them if tensions continued.   

"My warning would be if the gangs feel like they want to carry this on in the public, then the police are going to have a very strong response to that," he said.   

"So leave it in the police's hands, they'll deal with it. The problem we've had in this country over the last six years has been a very permissive environment. The gangs have been operating with impunity. The incoming government has been very clear, we want that to change. We want the public to feel like our police are controlling the streets and not the gangs."   

Mitchell told AM new technology - like facial recognition - could be the next step for retailers in their battle against crime.   

"I'm supportive of any measure that's going to make, number one, the staff that are working in retail safer so they can get out of bed and go to work knowing they're going to be safer and also the customers and the experience they're having," he said.   

"So there's a whole range of different responses we've got or we're looking at but absolutely around facial recognition, they're being used internationally and now we're in a position where actually we have to respond and that may be part of the response."   

Watch the full interview above.