With an apparent increase of gun violence toward police and the political right launching policies aiming to further crackdowns on gangs, community advocate Harry Tam says the violence may in fact tie back to National and ACT’s original three-strikes law.
“When the three-strikes law came in, it was a political agreement, not based on good evidence, so 10-12 years later, feel-good, feel-tough rhetoric. We may well be making things worse.”
The three-strikes law dates back to 2010, and ACT policy supported by National under their coalition agreement. The law sought to increase consequences on repeat violent offenders.
Tam says gangs have become more of a political football among politicians than a social issue.
“Part of it is trying to legislate a social problem out of existence. It's a whole mish-mash of rhetoric that we have become used to hearing from them.”
'Flogging the most alienated'
“When you get into this competition of flogging the most alienated people, it's not about protecting the victim, it's about making yourself stand on heads to get ahead.”
National leader Judith Collins doesn’t buy that and says gangs need to take responsibility for their actions
“It is convenient for members of gangs to point to everything but themselves as responsible for the violence they perpetuate. The three-strikes law is discretionary so it acts as a deterrent but, ultimately, judges apply their own judgment.” Collins says.
ACT law and order spokesperson Nicole McKee is confident the policy works and says if the law were given more time people would see the benefit of the three-strikes law.
“I think three strikes will work, it does work overseas and when we talk about whether or not it's going to increase crime, it's actually about stopping recidivist serious criminal violent crime and it has worked overseas and it will work here as well.”