Since 2016, gang member numbers have nearly doubled across the country, according to police data.
There are 8061 gang members in New Zealand recorded on the National Gang List as of June 2021, an increase of almost 4000 since 2016.
The information was revealed to Stuff under the Official Information Act.
The Gang Intelligence Centre holds the National Gang List, a means of understanding the “national gang picture in New Zealand”.
In 2016, there were 4420 gang members on the list, a figure which has grown by roughly 1000 every year.
Numbers have also nearly doubled in Auckland, with 1611 gang members recorded in June 2021, compared to 863 in 2016.
The increase has again been steady over that period, with 100 to 200 names added to the list each year.
Police use intelligence from search warrants and operations, as well as the wearing of a patch and gang tattoos, when considering whether a person can be identified as a gang member.
However, the OIA notes those who “drift away from gang involvement” may not have been removed from the National Gang List due to “challenges of corroborating their exit”.
Police said some of the rise in gang member numbers can be attributed to improved changes in recording process and methodology.
Eighteen gangs were listed in Auckland on the National Gang List in 2021, seven more than in 2016.
Across the country, 25 gangs were recorded this year – a figure that has fluctuated slightly, with 24 listed in 2016 and 26 from 2017 to 2019.
The number includes prominent gangs such as the Killer Beez, King Cobras, the Rebels, and Head Hunters.
The National Gang List began collecting numbers on youth gang members in 2016, but did not add any until 2018, when one was recorded. By 2021, this number had grown to 47.
No youth gang members were recorded in Auckland until June 2021, when two were added to the list.
In recent months, Auckland has seen a number of gang-related crimes, including a shooting at an innocent family after the wrong address was fired on in early November.
Earlier in July, Auckland suburb Māngere saw a “turf war” between King Cobras and the Rebels, with a spate of shootings and arsons.
Police said they are working with the government on a holistic approach to gangs.
It includes building community resilience, reducing the number of young people joining gangs, supporting those who want to leave, holding those who offend and harm to account, and addressing the factors that influence behaviours and criminality.