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Gang Life One Of Petty Terrorism, Violence And Hatred - Mayor

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Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Feb 20 NZPA - The murder of Wanganui toddler Jhia Te Tua should teach every gang member and their families that the gang life destroys people they love, because it is based on petty terrorism, violence and hatred, says the city's mayor, Michael Laws.

Jhia was killed instantly as she slept inside her parents' home when a bullet passed through a pallet, a window, the back of a couch, and her chest during a gang skirmish on May 5, 2007.

Her father Josh Te Tua was a Black Power gang member.

"Gangs are evil -- no good can come of joining them," Mr Laws said today, after the last of a dozen Mongrel Mob members charged in relation to the death was sentenced at the High Court in Wellington.

Mr Laws said membership of gangs was a one-way street to failure and despair: "Jhia was murdered because her father was a Black Power member. He and his mates were involved in an ongoing battle with rival gangsters.

"This beautiful little girl lost her life to stupidity and violence."

Three men convicted of her murder were today sentenced to life jail terms, two of them with non-parole periods of 15 years, while the third will serve at least 12-1/2 years.

Justice Warwick Gendall said at today's sentencing that members of rival gangs had acted disgracefully, with fights, disorder, confrontations and shootings.

"Gang warfare and tension between the Mongrel Mob and Black Power and other gangs escalated in Wanganui.

"A large number of Mongrel Mob and Black Power groups thought -- for primitive reasons -- that violence and intimidation on each side could establish their supremacy.

"Revenge was always on their mind," Justice Gendall said.

Gangs were prepared to conduct their warfare in the city streets of Wanganui where innocent persons could be harmed.

"Gangs in Wanganui have pursued lawless, violent, criminal activity to the severe detriment of that community," he said.

"Gangs somehow adopt the stance that their members and leadership have some form of territorial ownership or control over a community.

"Those approaches are not limited to Wanganui -- they apply to a regrettably large number of communities in New Zealand."

Separately, police spokesman Grant Ogilvie said youth gangs were a focus for police. In South Auckland, several inter-governmental initiatives were working closely with youth and families.

He said youth gangs were found in urban areas throughout the country, but it was difficult to gauge how many there were.

In Hastings, a top police officer Inspector Dean Clifford has warned in a crime report that the suburb of Flaxmere has between 13 and 15 gangs for just 10,300 residents. He said the Original Flaxmere Bloods (OFBs) were "the cause of a heightened level of risk of serious violence within the community".

"The use of violence and intimidation by the OFBs is causing antipathy from other youth gangs and a subsequent escalation in tension and the carriage of weapons by young people".

Flaxmere gangs were divided ethnically into two main groups: the largely Maori "Bloods", whose colours are red and black, and mainly Pacific Island "Cripps", whose colour is blue.

And a recent fight at Hutt Valley High School was believed to have involved members of a Wainuiomata youth gang known as the WAs (Wax Assassins), linked to the Mongrel Mob.

Dunedin is also facing rising gang tensions, in which recent incidents include a drive-by shooting at a South Dunedin house, arson and the use of molotov cocktails.

The city's mayor, Peter Chin, has warned that: "Some of that activity has the potential to put the public in danger."

Dunedin police organised crime squad head Detective Sergeant John Hedges said the Mongrel Mob had increased recruiting in recent months as Black Power members moved to Dunedin, looking to set up a new headquarters and cash in on the cannabis trade.

"They are wanting to prove themselves."

The drive-by shooting of a house, similar to that which killed Jhia in Wanganui, was particularly concerning.

Justice Minister Simon Power has said he will target gangs by doubling penalties for being a member of a gang, and making it easier for police to intercept their communications.

Opposition Leader Phil Goff said in the run-up to last year's election that the then-Labour government was considering introducing controversial legislation banning gangs.

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