Killer Beez a 'school for gangstas'
Dressed in gang colours and bandannas, children as young as three are being fitted out by their parents for a life in one of the country's most feared underworld groups.
Sunday News has learned police have shocking photos of around 40 kids, some barely out of nappies, dressed in the black and yellow colours of the notorious Killer Beez.
The pictures have alarmed Prime Minister John Key.
"I was disturbed to see the images sent to me by Sunday News and I believe most New Zealanders will be as well,'' he said.
Sunday News discovered a Bebo profile set up by a six-year-old who poses in the distinctive gang clothing, with a heavy gold watch on his wrist.
Defiantly making the Killer Beez's trademark middle finger signal, he boasts about his gangland connections in the "hood Otara'' in south Auckland.
And he lists his interests as fast cars, motorbikes and tough dogs.
"I got heaps of uncles and they are Colourway and Killer Beez,'' he writes. His Bebo page, illustrated with pictures of vicious-looking pit bull terriers, has links to other profiles dedicated to the Killer Beez and Tribesmen gangs.
We showed the photos to Key. He was appalled by the pictures which include children in gang clothing, wearing gold "pimp" necklaces, straddling motorbikes, at gang parties and get-togethers, all giving the offensive finger sign.
"This shows the level of challenge facing communities where gang culture has taken hold," the Prime Minster said.
"As a country we need better role models for our children and young people, and a better education system that gives people hope that they can make a better life for themselves and their families. Joining a gang does not offer that."
Police are extremely concerned about the images of gang members posturing with their impressionable children on Bebo and YouTube.
Otara police Constable Howie Iraia said these parents were effectively guilty of child abuse because they were recruiting their kids into a life of hardcore crime.
"Research has shown if you grow up in a house where you've seen your dad beat your mum up, kids tend to gravitate towards that when they become adults," he said.
"This is the same thing. And of course it p**ses me off ... but where do you start?"
Sunday News can't identify the six-year-old for legal reasons and were unable to reach the boy's parents or the Killer Beez.
Iraia told Sunday News that he had plastered his office walls with Killer Beez's kids photos to drive home to his rookie officers just how far the gang's influence had spread.
"It helps relay to cops what this group is about. And to say, 'Hey, this is the impact they're having in the area you're going to be working'," Iraia said.
Many of Iraia's pictures were taken from video clips from Colourway Records, the Killer Beez record label, and feature dozens of senior gang members and their children dressed in gang colours.
One Colourway Records song on YouTube is entitled Put Your Colours On. The constable, who has spent most of his seven years in the force policing Otara, said children being brought up by gang families often didn't stand a chance.
"When you're growing up in that area (Otara) it's hard not to either have a connection (with) or come across that particular gang (Killer Beez), and those who do have family associations. .. this isn't always true ... but when you've got family associations with that gang, it is very hard for them to stay out of it," he said.
Iraia said police couldn't talk to gang members about their children because they'd just get told to "eff off". He said all police could do was make Child Youth and Family referrals.
Key shares Iraia's frustrations. "I don't pretend the solution to the gang problem is easy," said the Prime Minister.
"It will involve a multi-pronged approach covering education, police work, tougher laws and strengthening of families and communities.
"The aim of all these measures must be to curb the attraction that gangs hold to young people. We must instill in our young people a sense of hope, not hopelessness."
The six-year-old's identity is disguised on his Bebo page but he defiantly sticks up the middle fingers of his hands the trademark gesture used on the cover of the Killer Beez's first rap album Skull Fingers Up.
His hoodie features the watchtower at Paremoremo jail, New Zealand's only maximum security prison, where several Killer Beez and Tribesmen members are held.
A Bebo user posts his support. He writes: "Love tha way you rockin dat Coloyrways (sic) hoodie, you lookin crim dela crim hoomie ultra solid. Hurrs a heart lil gangstah."
Police say the gang uses its music to tune children and teenagers into their gangsta lifestyle. Killer Beez members often graduate to the more senior Tribesmen gang.
"If you look at groups like the Mongrel Mob or Black Power, their prospects tend to be adults who have come up through the ranks ... this is slightly different," Iraia said.
"(There's) the Killer Beez, then there's a step up I guess with the Tribesmen ... I'm not sure that exists anywhere else."
Police arrested 47 Killer Beez and Tribesmen gang associates in a drugs and money-laundering crackdown in May last year. They seized $500,000 of P and cannabis, $20,000 cash and a haul of stolen property.
Amongst those still awaiting trial isKiller Beez kingpin Josh Masters, 30, charged with cooking and supplying P, money laundering, unlawful possession of firearms and committing a dangerous act with intent to injure.