Plans are in motion that could potentially see gang-associated facial tattoos made illegal if a proposed ban on gang patches proves ineffective, according to National’s police spokesman. Mark Mitchell, the projected next police minister, declared that gang members with such tattoos would be compelled to apply foundation to cover them each morning or face potential arrest.
In addition to the proposed tattoo ban, the party promises to allow police to search suspected gang members, as well as their vehicles and properties, without the need for warrants. Additionally, cooling-off orders would be issued, preventing gang members from communicating with one another.
Mitchell also noted his intention to curtail gang-related activity online. The pressures of gang-related violence have intensified, especially following a spike in violence in Ōpōtiki, further exacerbated by a high-profile gang funeral in the Bay of Plenty town earlier this year.
“We are aware of the simmering tensions in Ōpōtiki. We haven’t forgotten the gang-related homicide a few months ago,” Mitchell said.
Highlighting the urgency for proactive policing, he believes the police need “tools that allow them to intercept gang members, search them, their vehicles, confiscate illegal weapons, and pre-empt violent incidents.”
In response to recent violence, police have been granted further search powers through the Criminal Activity Intervention Legislation Act. Despite the ability to secure urgent warrants in a few hours, Mitchell stressed the need for proactive rather than reactive policing measures. He further criticized current firearms prohibition laws as being somewhat “ineffective.”
Ahead of tackling digital gang activity, Mitchell confirmed a scheduled meeting with the CEO of Meta – the parent company of online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and varied messaging apps.
The party is fervently opposed to any gang symbols, including patches, insignia, and the larger implications they carry. Should gang insignia be visibly tattooed, Mitchell stated that additional legislation would be passed to outlaw it.
Drawing parallels with the Australian law that obliges gang members to mask offensive tattoos every morning, he said, “if gangs think they can circumvent a ban on gang insignia by sporting offensive tattoos, we’ll counteract that.”
The legislation in Western Australia that prohibited gang tattoos also permitted police to order gang members to disperse and abstain from contacting each other for a week. Mitchell hinted that they could introduce similar laws.
On how such laws would be enforced, Mitchell was clear. Police would make as many arrests as necessary until gang members grasped the seriousness of the situation. Although the new government has yet to form, Mitchell was not yet set to assume the role of police minister.