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Youth gangs on the rise

Published: 5:58PM Tuesday October 25, 2005 Source: One News

Police admit the problem of youth gangs is on the rise and say in the past six months the number of gang-related 111 calls outs in the past six months has doubled.

And while the police have been forced to change the way they tackle the problem, they say it's up to communities to help themselves to prevent the problem spiralling out of control.

Street gangs are family to many young Polynesians who used to line up along racial lines but police say the culture has shifted and it's now more geographically based.

They say youths from all ethic groups are getting together in their local areas and getting into trouble with similar types.

Peter Sykes, who works with hundreds of South Auckland teenagers, believes the problem comes down to boredom.

"They're looking for activity and when the word goes out that something's happening the kids will naturally go to where the activity is," says Sykes.

"It's about chinese whispers and the word goes out that something's going to happen and someone else is armed so they come armed in preparation."

The weapons commonly include hammers, baseball bats and knives.

And the problem is not confined to South Auckland. Incidents in the last few months in the Auckland suburbs of Mt Roskill, Grey Lynn and Henderson have left seriously injured victims.

The youngsters are being recruited in schools and police are trying to break the perception that being in a youth gang is cool. Many children told police visiting several primary schools that their biggest ambition was to join a gang.

Police are now trying to get the help of community leaders, but social workers say that isn't enough.

They want to involve coaches and managers of sports clubs to create an alternative group to belong to that would be positively motivated.

Police say it's all about finding the right role models.