Crime and gang activity are “escalating” in Napier and more police officers are needed on its streets, says the city’s mayor.
Kirsten Wise’s comments, backed by Police Association president Chris Cahill, come after an attack that left one person dead at the Outlaws Motorcycle Club house in Napier on Monday. Police launched a homicide investigation and are following “strong lines of inquiry” into the attack, which took place at a Mersey St address in the suburb of Pandora. No arrests have been made.
Wise said the incident was “absolutely terrible” and she was “very concerned” with the escalation in crime in general, along with the presence of gang activity in Napier. It followed a shooting believed to stem from an altercation between rival gangs outside a bar in West Quay on February 28.
“The fact we have the highest social housing register is becoming quite a pressure point and the growth in the number of members in the gangs is becoming quite significant which directly correlates to the increased activity we’re seeing,” Wise told Stuff.
The mayor wrote to Police Minister Poto Williams about the problems Napier was facing a few weeks ago. She had received a response outlining what “additional resources have been put into the East Coast in recent years” and referring to the national gang operations that were in play. But more was needed.
“That lack of visibility is quite critical in terms of illegal behaviour. The statistics tell a story – we’ve got the second highest overall crime rate in the country, we’ve got the highest domestic violence rates, and we’re sitting at either number one or two in terms of methamphetamine usage,” she said.
“I personally believe we require additional resources and support from central government and will continue to advocate strongly on behalf of the Napier community.”
Cahill said more police officers were needed on the streets to give people “a bit of reassurance”.
“When you’re having so many high-profile public incidents, the value of seeing a police officer out there is very reassuring to the public, but also for the officers knowing they’ve got enough colleagues around them to back them up.”
After speaking to people from Napier, Cahill said many of them had pointed out that while more gang members were frequenting the streets, they weren’t seeing a lot of police officers.
In the Mersey St incident, one person was taken to Hawke’s Bay Hospital in a serious condition after being assaulted by two others at about 1.20pm on Monday. They later died as a result of their injuries
Mersey St, part of a busy industrial area, remained cordoned off on Tuesday morning, with an armed police officer standing guard as detectives and forensic teams dressed in white boilers suits continued investigating the incident.
A man who lived inside the house where the assault occurred was told by police he’d be able to enter the property by early Tuesday afternoon. “They [police] haven’t told us too much,” he said.
A business owner based on nearby Thames St told Stuff he had provided police with CCTV footage which showed a car and motorcycle, but would not give any description of either vehicle.
A man who had worked on the street for the past 11 years said he’d never seen or heard anything like it during his time. “They generally keep to themselves, not a lot of them live in the house as far as I know.”
Police said they were “actively seeking witnesses to this incident,” as well as making door-to-door inquiries with businesses throughout the area, along with requests for CCTV footage.
“There will be an increased police presence in the Mersey St industrial area today as we continue our inquiries.”
A police spokesperson said they wanted to reassure the Napier community “that there will be a strong and visible police presence across the city.”
“Our staff are appropriately trained and equipped to deal with any situation which may arise, and we are committed to ensuring that members of our community feel safe and are safe.”
Less than two weeks ago a community meeting about gang violence was held in Napier, hosted by National MP for Taupō Louise Upston and National’s justice spokesperson, MP Simon Bridges.
In a statement on Monday, Upston said action on gang violence in Napier was needed now.
She had written to Police Minister Poto Williams last week asking for an urgent investigation into escalating gang violence.