Bike gangs make resurgence in NZ - expert

A Kiwi criminologist believes the police can't stop gangs from forming, but says they still have a crucial role in preventing them from stepping "out of line".

Gang expert Jarrod Gilbert made the comments to Paul Henry on Thursday morning, after it was revealed that the Bandidos Gang was likely to be behind a $17 million meth haul which was seized on Wednesday.

"The police back in 2010 said they were going to stop the Rebels [Motorcycle Club] forming, and they've said similar things about other clubs, like the Red Devils in Nelson, and they've failed to do that," he said.

"That's because they perhaps don't have the ability to do that - but what they do have the ability to do is police these groups when they step out of line, when they upset the gang-community balance - when they do things that the community finds unacceptable."

Dr Gilbert said while the Bandidos still remain a threat, gangs in general are not nearly causing as much chaos across the nation as they once were.

"The clubs of today are very different to how they were in the 1980s because they've aged, they've matured - people in the scene now are in their 40s, 50s, even 60s, whereas in the past it was a young man's game," he said.

"Interestingly enough, somewhat because of methamphetamine, the older-style clubs, the traditional ones that we knew, went into quite serious decline.

"But then what happened is that there was a resurgence in popularity, caused at least in part by popular media ... and so we had fewer clubs, but more people wanting to join. What did that mean? Other clubs formed."

Dr Gilbert explained that while gangs no longer seem to band together for the purposes of organised crime, they still have a number of "criminalised members" who pose a threat.

"In recent times we've seen a resurgence, and I guess that does raise the prospect of potential conflict in the future," he said.

But he says New Zealand's drug problem can't just be put down to the existence of gangs.

"We can't just say that motorcycle clubs are the problem, because if we could snap our fingers tomorrow and get rid of the clubs, then the drug problem would still remain," he said.

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Matt Burrows
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