Pubdate: Wed, 21 Feb 2007
Source: New Zealand Herald (New Zealand)
Copyright: 2007 New Zealand Herald
Author: Simon Collins


Otara youth workers are appealing for help with a drug-fuelled gang
problem which they say is too big for them to handle alone.

The Otara Youth Action Group, which was given $600,000 a year in last
year's Budget to employ eight youth workers for four years, is seeking
support for a declaration that the whole community is united to stop
young people getting involved in street gangs and drug dealing.

"The wellspring of the gangs, graffiti, prostitution and crime is the
massive increase in drugs use," the group said yesterday.

"Drugs are killing our young, destroying their minds and stealing
their innocence. This problem is getting worse and is fuelling
escalating gang activity. At the centre of a growing gang battle over
distribution rights is the worst drug of all, 'P'."

Manukau mayoral candidate Len Brown, who chairs the group, said gangs
offered youngsters the temptation of quick wealth through selling drugs.

He said a 22-year-old man in Weymouth told him other young men were
joining the gangs for "the nice cars and clothes and hats and shoes".

"The gangs are offering it to them now," he said. "They say we want
you to stay here and sell some of these drugs, and we'll give you a
lot of money. So it's easy, you don't have to work hard."

He said local people knew the gangs and drug dealers, and where the
homes "tinnie houses" or P labs were.

"We know because they are part of us, our family, our neighbours, our
friends, our fellow church members, our classmates, our workmates," he

"We are asking the police to stand up with us and say, if we are
wanting people to come forward with information on family members,
neighbours, workmates and church mates, it's critical for that trust
be placed in the police for them to act on that information."

Veteran youth worker Sully Paea, co-manager of the youth workers who
call themselves 274 after the prefix of the local phone numbers, said
the gangs were now "a group of youth who are way different from others
I have worked with", using texting and fast cars.

"I see more and more youths driving round the place in flash cars in
larger packs," he said.

Another member of the action group, former Ministry of Pacific Island
Affairs manager Frank Stowers, said many gang teenagers were "quite

"They are achieving academic achievement awards," he said. "They are
achieving sporting awards. They may be from high deprivation areas but
they are no longer the kids with attitude and behavioural problems.

"A lot of these kids are also going to church. So they have another

The action group has called a "Community Leaders' Congress" at the
Otara Music and Arts Centre on March 8 to bring church leaders,
schools, police, business and community leaders together to discuss
the problem.
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