“Patched” gang members today took over the entrance to Tauranga Hospital and were involved in someone being “badly beaten up” in the nearby carpark, National MP Simon Bridges claims.
Bridges has taken to social media with an experience he said he witnessed after going to visit his elderly father at the hospital this afternoon.,
On a post to Twitter, he wrote: “Patched gang members had taken over the entrance and someone was being badly beaten up in the carpark in a gang fight.”
In a further post, he wrote: “I say this because so many want to downplay this gang thuggery and violence. There have always been gangs but nothing like what we see today.
“It is at epidemic proportions.”
A police spokesperson said they were called to a “report of disorder” at the Tauranga Hospital carpark at 3.15pm.
Police said it followed an incident where “a motorist was involved in some sort of altercation with a couple in the car park”.
“One police unit attended, spoke to the parties involved and advised there were no issues.”
The police spokesperson said initially that there was nothing on their file to suggest it was a gang fight.
It also appeared that there were no arrests.
They later said staff had reviewed CCTV footage of the incident in the carpark and “confirmed it didn’t involve gang members”.
The Bay of Plenty Times reported last month that there were now more gang members in the Bay of Plenty than anywhere else in New Zealand, according to police figures.
Gang Intelligence Centre (GIC) records of the National Gang List (NGL) show there were 1493 gang members in the Bay of Plenty last month.
The figure was a 41.12 per cent increase on the October 2017 total of 1058.
Bridges said at the time the figures highlighted a “crisis” that was going unchecked, meanwhile, a man who works directly with gang members says public perception needs to change.
“What’s depressing for our region and Tauranga is we’ve got the highest number of gang members in New Zealand,” Bridges said.
“This is a crisis … what worries me greatly is that we’re becoming numb to this and it’s becoming normalised.”
Bridges did not blame the police for the increase, citing a lack of resources to stem growth.
University of Canterbury sociologist and New Zealand gangs expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert said the NGL numbers were of “little value”.
“We have to be very careful stating them as fact because they’re likely to be highly inaccurate. It’s very easy to get on [the list] and very difficult to get off,” he said.
“That’s not to say there isn’t been growth in the scene because there is but these exact figures give the impression we are more certain about the percentage growth than we are in reality.”
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