Operation Kōtare takes flight in Eastern District

More Police officers are heading to Eastern District to help combat ongoing crime and gang concerns.

Operation Kōtare is stretching its wings for six months, focussing on reducing the prevalence of unlawful behaviour by gangs, particularly the use of firearms and violence in public.

The operation has three key areas – the disruption, suppression, and prevention of unlawful behaviour involving gangs.

It kicked off this week in Wairoa and Gisborne, and will include Hawke’s Bay.

Inspector Darren Paki says enough is enough, and the communities of Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay deserves better.

“This unlawful behaviour we’ve been seeing will not be tolerated, and the public can be reassured we are doing something about it,” he says.

“But we also want to bring the community along with us. They are an essential part of the solution.”

While there have been a number of concerning incidents in recent weeks, planning for Operation Kōtare began last year.

Since January 2022, there have been at least 55 gang-related shootings, seven in January 2023 alone.

There has also been ongoing firearms-related intimidation and threats – some of it between gangs, and some within the same gang.

Inquiries are ongoing into recent incidents in Wairoa, including two suspicious house fires, a shooting in the main street, and an incident where people were asking motorists to pull over in Raupunga, which resulted in a shot being discharged.

Fortunately, these incidents did not result in any injuries.

“This sort of activity is unacceptable, and causes significant harm to the wellbeing of our communities,” Inspector Paki says.

A range of enquiries into serious offending are ongoing, with dedicated investigative teams working to hold offenders to account.

Yesterday [Thursday], a bolt-action rifle and was located at a house in Wairoa where officers had gone to serve a warrant to arrest.

They also seized 38 rounds of ammunition.

The man, aged 23, was due to appear in the Gisborne District Court today [Friday] charged with methamphetamine offences, failing to stop, resisting Police, and bail breaches.

There are more than 50 staff who will be brought in from Districts all over New Zealand to join with local staff on a rolling basis over the course of Operation Kōtare.

This includes CIB investigators, experienced senior officers to oversee the various aspects of the operation, and officers experienced in a range of different tactical skills.

But while Police are focused on disrupting, suppressing, and preventing crime, Police cannot do it alone.

“This needs to be a community effort,” Inspector Paki says.

Wairoa community leaders met with Police this week to further discuss how the community and Police can work together towards resolving the ongoing crime and gang issues.

Officers also took to the streets of Wairoa on foot, stopping and chatting to locals, including business owners about the operation, explaining that they’d be seeing more Police boots on the ground.

“There was an amazing response from the public, they were so grateful. A couple of people even got quite emotional,” Inspector Paki says.

Police will be working even more closely with community partners like Councils, iwi, and health organisations – as preventing harm in the first place is the goal of Operation Kōtare and community buy-in is crucial.

“We can knock on doors and arrest people, we’ve done that and we’ll continue to do that to hold offenders to account,” Inspector Paki says.

“But what happens beyond that, to ensure members of our communities get the support they need to stick to a better pathway, that’s what we need everyone’s help to achieve.”

A reminder that if you witness criminal activity or behaviour that is unsafe, please call 111 as soon as possible with as much detail as you can.

Incidents can be reported after the fact via 105.

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