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Return of Strike Force Raptor? Luxon calls for gang unit, warrantless search powers for cops to enter pads

Newshub logo Newshub 24/05/2022 Ireland Hendry-Tennent
Watch: National leader Christopher Luxon speaks with AM. © AM Watch: National leader Christopher Luxon speaks with AM.

National leader Christopher Luxon is proposing a Strike Force Raptor style police unit to deal with increasing gang crime. 

The National Party floated the idea of the unit in November 2020 before backtracking after criticism. 

The idea was modelled on a unit in New South Wales and promised to take a zero-tolerance approach to gang-related offending. 

Luxon told AM's Ryan Bridge on Wednesday the country needs a dedicated unit to deal with all gang-related crime, no matter how small. 

"The reality is that gangs have increased by 40 percent under this Government, we have just over 8000 gang members and we've got just over 10,000 police officers, we've had 2500 501s returns and 50 percent have reoffended. I think there are a number of things the Government needs to be doing to cut down on this."

Return of Strike Force Raptor? Luxon calls for gang unit, warrantless search powers for cops to enter pads
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Luxon said along with a dedicated unit, police should have warrantless search powers to go into gang pads whenever they like to track down illegal guns. 

"I would have taken the $210 million that we are spending on a gun register for legal firearms owners and I would have redirected it into firearm prohibition orders so you have police with warrantless search powers so they can actually go into gang pads and go after illegal guns. 

"The second thing I would do is have a dedicated gang unit so every time there is a gang infringement whether it's a parking fine, whether it's a speeding fine, whether it's a building consent at a gang pad you would have the gang unit deal with it."

When asked whether the gang unit would be similar to Strike Force Raptor, Luxon said that was "kind of" what he was talking about. 

However, Luxon stopped short of saying the unit would be permanently armed, instead saying officers would need easy access.

"You want the police to be able to have access very, very quickly [to firearms]. We are now in a place actually where 75 percent of police are saying they want to be permanently armed and that's a conversation we should think about before we just go say, 'Yes that would be a good idea'. That situation has changed, the risk has changed for sure."

He also called for a review of the pursuit policy so police could crack down on fleeing drivers and a review of the maximum penalty for being in possession of a firearm without a licence. The current maximum is a $15,000 fine or a year in prison but Luxon says it needs to be reviewed. 

"The problem here is illegal guns, that's what we've really got to go after and sort out, that's why we've seen the increase in serious, violent crime."

The Party scrapped plans for Strike Force Raptor in 2020 with National's police spokesperson at the time, Brett Hudson, saying it wouldn't set up the unit if elected. 

"I wouldn't step too far over the line to be seen to be directing police on how they deal with their operational procedures and models. The police commissioner has that responsibility," Hudson said at the time.

In this year's Budget, the Government announced a $600 million package aimed at addressing the spate of crimes currently ripping through New Zealand. Much of the package will be used to tackle gang violence including $100 million in funding, boosting police numbers and an extension to rehabilitation programmes. 

Police are also planning to launch a dedicated operation across Auckland, with smaller teams across Aotearoa, to tackle growing gang violence and intimidating behaviour. It's been dubbed 'Operation Cobalt' and will begin in June. 

It follows Operation Tauwhiro, which was extended by six months late last year. Operation Tauwhiro focused on disrupting firearms-related violence by gangs.

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