Auckland gun violence: More than 350 people shot as gang, drug wars surge

Worsening gun violence linked to gang turf wars, illicit drugs and the insidious cancer of organised crime has left more than 350 people with firearms injuries across Auckland in five years.

More than half of the wounded were treated at Middlemore Hospital as violence in South Auckland spilled over into bloodshed, leaving numerous people dead and scores of others fighting for their lives.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has serious concerns about the growing use of firearms. He has written to the Police Minister and will meet Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims next week to discuss how to tackle the spate of shootings and toxic impact of gangs.

“There is no single solution, but every available lever needs to be pulled to stop worsening gang violence and misuse of firearms in criminal and gang activity.”

Among this year’s victims is Zane Smith, 37, who was gunned down in a car at Wellsford last weekend.

A 21-year-old woman has been charged with being an accessory after the fact to murder and a 45-year-old man has been charged with murder.

Police Constable Matthew Hunt was shot and killed during a routine traffic stop in Massey in June.

And nearly one year after Favona grandmother Meliame Fisi’ihoi, 57, was shot dead at her Calthorp Close property in an apparent case of mistaken identity, her killer remains on the run.

Figures released exclusively to the Herald by the city’s three district health boards under the Official Information Act show medical staff at Auckland’s major hospitals have treated 355 people for firearms injuries since January 2016.

The documents also show 13 child shooting victims have received treatment at Starship children’s hospital since 2016.

Legs, hips and feet appear to be the body parts most commonly injured by firearms, along with hands, “head/neck/shoulder/face”, chest, arm, back, eyes, abdomen and testicles.

Nearly 50 seriously hurt patients spent more than five days in hospital after being shot.

Auckland DHB said air rifles, rifles and shotguns were responsible for the injuries. Waitematā and Counties Manukau did not record what firearms were involved.

At least 63 people have been shot and hospitalised across Auckland this year alone as of October 8.

The figures include accidental shootings and self-harm incidents.

As well as the human toll, gun violence is costing taxpayers; nearly $15 million has been spent treating Auckland firearms victims in the past five years.

The figures come amid a spate of shootings involving rival gangs the Killer Beez and Tribesmen in South Auckland. There were at least five gang-related shootings in two days in and around Ōtara last month.

Community leaders say the gun violence has highlighted a drive-by shooting culture. They blame poverty and the glorification of gang lifestyles for the spree in gun crime.

Armed police were brought into the suburb to counter the most recent outbreak, before the two gangs reached an apparent truce to curb the bloodshed this week.

A 24-year-old man has been charged with recklessly discharging a firearm and police have seized three weapons, ammunition, explosives and detonators during a search.

Goff said police had put more officers on Auckland streets in recent years and used the Proceeds of Crime Act to target gangs’ riches and make organised crime less attractive.

“Both of these measures are useful to reduce violence in our city but the levels of violence being reported is still concerning.

“We as Aucklanders and New Zealanders don’t expect to see this level of firearms incidents.”

Counties Manukau DHB has patched up more than half of the shooting victims (217), Auckland DHB 97 and Waitematā DHB 41.

Councillors Alf Filipaina and Efeso Collins had been liaising with Manukau police, social agencies and community leaders to help curb the violence and divert at-risk young people from gang life.

Goff said he endorsed tighter gun control laws and police efforts to diffuse tensions between gangs.

Filipaina told the Herald the firearms figures were disturbing, as were the number of guns in circulation.

People in the community were scared.

If criminals kept weapons at home, they could fall into children’s hands, causing innocent people to be seriously hurt or killed.

The Ministry of Social Development was providing $200,000 for projects targeting at-risk South Auckland youth.

Filipaina wanted more social workers, support for families and believed community leaders should also be talking with gangs.

Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers said police had zero tolerance for gun violence and were committed to holding armed criminals to account.

Gun violence was not confined to a single region and many firearms incidents had links to organised crime.

Tāmaki Makaurau police had made many arrests for firearms offences and regularly located guns during day-to-day duties.

“There will understandably be some anxieties within the community caused by the very nature of gun violence.”

Tackling gun violence would required help from the wider community, Chambers said.

“Their eyes and ears can provide important assistance in our investigations. There will be some individuals who know of people illegally in possession of firearms or that are engaging in this sort of behaviour.

“We encourage those people to report suspicious or illegal activity to Police. Any information received will be treated in confidence and it can also be provided anonymously, through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

New gun reform legislation was passed in June after the Christchurch mosque shootings which claimed 51 lives.

The new law creates a national gun register and introduces tougher firearms licensing tests, including a blanket ban on all gang members.

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