A jump in gang crime and the recruitment of youths by gangs means a city-wide patch ban outweighs any human rights considerations, Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws says.
Speaking to Parliament's law and order select committee yesterday, Mr Laws said new police figures showed gang criminal activity had increased, with violent attacks almost doubling from 52 in 2006 to 99 in 2007.
The Wanganui District Council Prohibition of Gang Regalia Bill, which was spearheaded by Mr Laws and Whanganui National MP Chester Borrows, would ban gang colours, patches and regalia from Wanganui's public places.
Mr Laws said gang members were terrorists, were New Zealand's largest drug manufacturers, and existed only to create mayhem and intimidate law-abiding citizens.
Gang regalia was used to recruit children as young as seven who looked up to gang members as role models. "[The ban] is designed to remove intimidation and the potential for violence from public places. We're not solving the gang problem here but we are giving our police another facility to police a safer community."
Mr Laws said the main concern over the bill - that it infringed on gang members' human rights - should be put aside for the greater good.
Former police gang specialist Cam Stokes said the bill would be ineffective and make policing gangs more difficult.
"It makes it harder to identify those people without their patches. The quicker we identify them after they have committed a serious crime the quicker we catch them."
- The Dominion Post