Mongrel Mob conduct upsets
Patched-up Mongrel Mob members are in Maungaturoto on a drug rehabilitation programme with their families.
And police say some Dargaville retailers are intimidated by their Thursday visits to town for supplies.
But no one has made a formal complaint despite reports of "disgusting" behaviour including theft, barking at women and children in the street, drug dealing at the back of shops and scary standover tactics.
Acting Whangarei-Kaipara area commander Inspector Tracy Phillips says the allegations came through as a result of a police survey conducted among retailers.
She says people are too scared to make formal statements and just two of the 40 to 50 respondents don't mind having the gang in Dargaville.
"We understand they have freedom of expression but when it comes to intimidation and disrespecting the community we won't stand for it," Ms Phillips says.
Police have advised retailers to put up "no gang patches or insignia" signs around their premises to help alleviate the situation.
They've also discussed concerns with gang leaders from Auckland and have found common ground.
"We are still going to have police in town but not to the same level as the other Thursday. There is a little bit of trust there but we have other operations in place - trust has got to be earned," Miss Phillips says.
The Mongrel Mob members and their families are attending a two month Salvation Army alcohol and drug rehabilitation course and have just two weeks to go.
It is the third programme run at Maungaturoto and Salvation Army national director for addiction services Jerry Walker says it is the fifth held for the mob chapter concerned since 2008.
The long term scheme evolved after gang leaders expressed a desire to kick methamphetamine.
Mr Walker understands the sight of a patched member is "enough" for some people but says the Salvation Army and Mongrel Mob don't want any problems.
He says programme results are still being evaluated but early indicators are encouraging.
"It's intense taking members away from where they live and they're committed to addressing this issue of addiction.
"People who come in are not looking for trouble, they are just wanting to conduct their business in a lawful way," Mr Walker says.
All members volunteer for the programme which is funded by the Ministry of Health and the Salvation Army.
Mr Walker says the patch issue is out of his hands and plays an important part in the gang's culture. "There is no law or legislation prohibiting it and that is not a decision for us to make.
"Where and when they wear their patches is up to them," Mr Walker says.
We asked shop owners how they feel about the sudden influx in gang patched shoppers.
Lynley's Lingerie and Linen owner Lynley Thompson says she doesn't mind patch members coming to town so long as they don't wear their patches. "It's keeping people off our streets, especially our elderly and I think the Dargaville Police are doing an incredible job."
Dormavilla owner Lynne Morfett says she had a group come through on Thursday and they were no trouble. "I'd never seen a patch member before and it kind of threw me. But that's no different to someone coming in with a girls brigade sash." She says they will only enforce the no patch rule if they step out of line or if they are wearing something that masks their face.
Noise Co. owner Ken Glamuzina says he is not bothered at all. "They were really lovely actually, as long as you watch them and remain aware it is fine."
Dargaville Hunting and Fishing owner Jason Campbell says it impacts on sales. "No one really stops in when they are on the street, I don't think they should be allowed to wear their patches."
Jon Matich Surfwear co-owner Rebecca Matich says she is aware that it's unnerving having to walk through a group of gang members to enter her store. She says the Salvation Army should be responsible for de-patching the members before they get on the bus to come to town. "I don't get stroppy but I don't kowtow to them. Often it's the way they get reacted to that gets them fired up."