Gang problem forcing police to beef up street presence

September 6, 2006

Police are looking at putting more uniformed officers on the streets of South Auckland in a bid to stop spiralling youth gang violence.

Police have launched their sixth homicide investigation in the region in the past three months, after Riki Harry Mafi, 17, died following a violent attack at the weekend.

Counties-Manukau District Commander Steve Shortland said that in the past year a police youth action team had been set up and extra social workers drafted in.

He said he was considering boosting the number of uniformed officers patrolling the streets.

Riki Mafi died in the early hours of Tuesday morning after being beaten with a baseball bat in the Otara town centre on Saturday night.

Detective Senior Sergeant Pizzini said it appeared the attack was unprovoked.

Police were still looking for four men in relation to the incident.

The high numbers of youths roaming South Auckland streets with weapons at night was of grave concern, he said.

Manukau City mayor Sir Barry Curtis estimated about 200 people under the age of 25 in the area were involved in street gangs and said examples needed to be made of them before more people were hurt.

Youth worker Alan Va’a said anger, unemployment, boredom, drugs and alcohol were behind the continuing youth gang problem.

A joint approach from within the community was needed, he said.

Last weekend’s attack happened two weeks after a fight in Otahuhu which ended when a man was dragged to his death underneath a car.

A youth was shot dead at the same spot a month earlier.

Police attributed the killing to turf wars between a Pacific islands street gang and a Maori street gang.

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