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Officials meet over gang violence

Published: 7:04AM Wednesday October 26, 2005 Source: RNZ/TVNZ Interactive

City officials and government agencies are meeting to discuss an explosion in youth gang violence in South Auckland.

A 17-year old student, George Naea, is facing two charges of attempted murder following an attack on members of a rival gang in Flatbush on Sunday.

The police are also investigating the death of the 17-year old's father, Iulio Kilepoa, 38, shortly after that attack.

Manukau City Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says police, city councillors and community agencies will meet to discuss the problem.

a Manukau youth worker says gang problems are cyclical and can be beaten. Alan Va'a says history shows that when gangs become a problem, the community can defeat them.

Escalation of youth gang violence in South Auckland also prompted the Police Association to renew its calls for a Commission of Inquiry into organised crime.

South Auckland police say numbers are against them in their struggle to curb a gang culture plaguing parts of the city.

"Police can't cope, we are stretched and we can't cope with what's going on," says Detective Senior Sergeant Sue Schwalger.

"This is a community problem.. the police didn't create this problem," she says.

Police estimate there are up to 1,000 young gang members in South Auckland alone and they say the community needs to do something.

"We shouldn't retaliate.. otherwise it becomes an eye for an eye and we have one death now...we will get more," Schwalger says.

Police say in the past six months the number of gang-related 111 calls outs in the past six months has doubled.

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.

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.

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.