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The Police Association’s annual conference takes place in Wellington this month and this year’s theme is The Changing Face of Organised Crime.

Each year we identify a theme that is relevant to what our members are dealing with, no matter where in New Zealand they are living and working. The value of a theme is it allows us to discuss problems such as the growing meth issue at a local and a national level.

The ever-increasing problem of organised crime is a familiar one for cops and Kiwis.

I have spent much of my policing career in this area, but even in the three years I have been off the frontline and in the president’s chair, organised crime has grown at an alarming rate.

Our members know this and the results of our latest biennial survey certainly spell it out.

Ninety-three per cent of members consider methamphetamine use as the most significant threat to law and order in New Zealand. That is followed closely by organised crime at 86 per cent.

Given the two are intrinsically linked, locally and internationally, we have much to consider during this conference. The comments from members in the survey consistently connect gangs, drugs and organised crime, and the violence and harm being caused to family and community.

You don’t have to be a police officer to recognise the threats of this lethal combination. The news is full of reports of serious gang violence and turf warfare, usually involving firearms. Massive seizures of drugs, either at the border or uncovered during large-scale criminal investigations, continue to astound.

It wasn’t that long ago when I led investigations that were considered successful if 10 kilograms of drugs were seized. This year, there have been single seizures of 100kg-plus, with nearly 1500kg of meth uncovered over the past year, and cocaine continues to be found in ever-larger amounts. These hauls would have fetched hundreds of millions of dollars on the street, and caused unimaginable social harm – in big cities right through to small rural communities.

Unfortunately, New Zealand’s geographical isolation does not make it immune to the attention of large overseas-organised crime syndicates – the names of which we recognise through international reports. We now know some of them are setting up bases here to supply local organised crime groups at great profit, or to receive and on-supply enormous shipments to other destinations.

Our October conference will also note the impact on New Zealand of the 501 deportees from Australia. Predictably, they have entered our local gang scene and forced indigenous New Zealand gangs to recruit and adopt a more “professional” business model.

The conference will also consider the Police strategy to target assets, and how the Government’s significant boost in police numbers targeting organised crime will be deployed. I know the regions are keen to ensure their issues form part of that strategy, and our delegates will take with them an enhanced understanding of this issue that they place at the top of their hit list.

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