Problems with young wanna-be gangsters escalate over summer break

Young wanna-be gang members wandering around town wearing red bandanas tied around their faces, barking like dogs and fighting have been a major problem for police during the Christmas break.

On Sunday there were two fights between youths in town, with a group of about eight to 10 young people fighting outside the library at about midday and a later altercation outside Plunket.

Constable Raewyn McLachlan says fighting has been happening since Christmas, with those involved aged between 13 and 16.

“It’s not necessarily the same people but the same behaviour.

“The kids aren’t gang members. They are dressed in red and barking at people. That’s what they were doing (on Sunday).

So while I am saying they are not gang members they certainly behave in a way that suggests they want to be.”

Constable McLachlan says police officers were still trying to get to the bottom of the fights on Sunday, although conversations on Raglan Notice Board suggest that the fights broke out in retaliation of the theft of a hat from a young boy.

Constable McLachlan says New Year’s Eve was a busy night for police, with a few arrests for disorder and fighting.

A police media team spokesperson says at about 3am on New Year’s Day a group of men wearing gang-related paraphernalia, one armed with a machete, threatened two men near the jetty at the end of Bow St, and chased them.

One of the men suffered injuries to his face and arms in an attack and police inquiries are continuing.

A man is also before the district court facing charges of common assault – “he punched another male in the head” – and possession of an offensive weapon for an earlier incident, about 1.30am, near the jetty.

“A group of people were walking to the Kopua Holiday Park from the Central Business District. They had a dispute over a girl and a man pulled out what looked to be a tyre iron,” the spokesperson said.

Constable McLachlan says while there were a lot of Mongrel Mob members wearing patches in town on New Year’s Eve it was the youth who were causing problems.

There were about 10-12 patched members and “they were awesome”, she says.

“They were stopping stuff from happening, stopping fights, stopping disorder …”

She says the behaviour of youth in Raglan is disconcerting.

“It’s been quite challenging.

“The prolific of red is just not nice.”

She says the youths’ behaviour and dress would lead the public to assume that they were being taught and encouraged but this was not necessarily the case.

“This is a town problem that is getting worse and escalating.

“It’s these young kids that are walking around in red, tying their red bandanas over their faces. Trouble is happening around them … No one seems to have the same problems that they are causing.

“So many people are washing their hands of it. Some people need to take more responsibility for the behaviour of these kids … the more we ignore it – it is not going to go away.”

Raglan Maori Warden chairperson Nancy Koha, who was newly elected in November and came from 10 years’ working in Otara with the Turehou Maori Wardens, says in her experience the problems with youth is related to drugs.

“In Auckland it’s always about the fast money.

“The new drugs are all aimed at the young ones. Such a little town needs to band together to push that crap out and maybe it will ease out that (behaviour), too.”

She says it will take a combined effort to resolve Raglan’s issues with its youth, including the Maori wardens, police, the business community and even the local gang members “if they understand what we are going on about and if they are keen to help us clean the town up”.

“We need to get our heads right before we approach the community, we all have to be on the same page.”

Nancy says many of the young ones causing problems – drinking and barking, and being anti-social – were from Raglan. They know members in her team and call out in greeting, and she is encouraging those Maori wardens to work with the youth.

“Sometimes the family just doesn’t want to know, they want it to be someone else’s problem.”

Nancy says on New Year’s Eve there were a lot of young ones who “just wanted to go out there and be mischievous and cause problems for people who were enjoying themselves”.

A tourist reported to her that he had been threatened by a youth carrying a rock on the main street.

“I will report them to the police, they leave me with no choice.

“I’m always mindful of what they are carrying on them.”

Meanwhile, also on New Year’s Eve, police handed out about 25-30 fines for breaches of the liquor ban in town and more than 25 infringement notices at road checks for excess breath alcohol.

On the night of December 23, thieves smashed through the glass doors of a portable storage unit near Rock-it and stole five brand new bikes from the pop-up bike hire business recently started by Cyclery owner Dirk De Ruysscher and Waikato district councillor Lisa Thomson.