Great, we need one and much of what is being proposed is good. She should be congratulated. What we don't need is to over-inflate the problem. Unfortunately, in an election year (of course), this is what has occurred.
The Minister says there are 4,000 known gang members in New Zealand. She says that so far this year they are responsible* for 34 percent of class A & B drug offences; 36 percent of kidnapping and adduction offences; 25 percent of aggravated robbery/robbery offences; 26 percent of grievous assault offences; and consequently 28 percent of the prison population is gang members. Sounds bad, right? If we believe what we are told, gang members make up just 0.1 percent of the population yet they are responsible for between a quarter and more than a third of these serious crimes. Bloody hell.
Unfortunately, I suspect it's bollocks. More than that I'll bet on it.
I will eat a suitcase full of carrots in front of the fine Sociology Department at the University of Canterbury if these data are correct. I'll ask the Minister to do the same if I'm right.
Let's look at what we can prove, because inconveniently she has used specific offences that don't match with published data. Nevertheless, we are told that 28 percent of the prison population are gang members. If we take the current prison population as 8,500 that means 2,380 of known gang members are currently behind bars. Whoa, that means 1,620 free gang members are creating all of the carnage that the Minister has cited today.
Not only are the numbers wrong, they are widely inaccurate. Crazy inaccurate. If they're not I'll eat carrots.
Gangs are a problem, but to misrepresent the problem is just as bad. Law and government policy should be based on fact, not fiction. Throwing alarming statistics around in the buildup to an election is perhaps not surprising but it is certainly unacceptable. When the public see these frightening statistics of course they are going to accept whatever solution is offered. The unfortunate truth is that the statistics are blowing a problem into something it's not. Not even close. That being the case, the real problem is being hidden.
There is much to like about this policy initiative, and some things that are pretty average, but either way we should at least be presented with a factual picture. Somebody please ask the Minister to prove her numbers. Anybody. Let's just see the workings.
If the situation proves to be clear and accurate and I am wrong, then I will eat those carrots.
I am not wrong.
*The Minister says these are the numbers of charges that are laid. Even if correct, why not use conviction numbers? Surely proof rather than suspicion of guilt is a better measure, unless the police are throwing charges at gang members without evidence? But I'll still take the carrot challenge even on that silly measure.