A spate of gang-related brawls outside the Tokoroa District Court could have been prevented had the police been present, say Maori wardens.
Another large fight involving about 15 gang affiliates erupted outside the court yesterday as tensions between two rival gangs continued to rise.
Police arrested four people including three with close links to the Nomads and one with affiliations to the Black Power gang.
They were to appear in court this morning charged with disorderly behaviour.
The Waikato Times witnessed the brawl after concerned locals contacted the paper last week about a continuing series of brawls and a lack of police presence outside the courthouse.
There was no police presence yesterday morning until Maori wardens called them after the fight erupted.
Maori warden Kim Thompson said the fighting usually took place outside the courthouse on Monday mornings when members of the two gangs appeared on charges from the weekend.
She said the fight could have been avoided if there had been a police presence.
Police officers were covered if things got nasty but the wardens were not, she said.
"All the police needed to do is be there where these guys can see them and they would make them think twice. This has been going on over the last few weeks and somebody needs to let the air out of it."
Tokoroa residents were nervous yesterday as they walked on the other side of the street from the courthouse and many nervously glanced up the grass bank in front of the building where Nomads members were waiting.
Retailers, bank staff and passersby spoken to by the Times said trouble had been brewing between two groups with several skirmishes taking place in and around the central business district over the last four weeks.
They were scared for their own safety.
Yesterday's fight broke out about 11.30am following an exchange between the two groups when members of the Black Power gang drove past the courthouse. Patched members of both gangs had been at the court at the time.
Tokoroa police would not answer direct questions from the Times yesterday. In a press release Detective Sergeant Kevan Verry said the Police would employ a "zero tolerance attitude" to people committing offences or congregating aground the courthouse with no real purpose.
"There seems to be a neanderthal attitude between these two criminal gangs of coming to town to hang around the courthouse and having a fight," Mr Verry said.
He said they would liaise with the Courts Department and other agencies to help address the issue.
South Waikato mayor Neil Sinclair would not comment until he had received a police report.
- Waikato Times