Every known patched member of the Rebels gang in Taranaki has been locked up today in another wave of police attention on organised crime.
For the second time District Police, in conjunction with OFCANZ, have coordinated a multi-district operation to stop the Rebels gang gaining a foothold and to bring to account these organised criminals who are involved in methamphetamine.
The first operation took place in February this year and saw over 30 people arrested across five North Island districts with vehicles, cash, firearms, gang patches and drugs seized.
Today's crackdown is a continuation of the Police focus on the Rebels gang revealing evidence of the distribution of methamphetamine, ecstasy, cannabis and benzylpiperazine (BZP) in Taranaki and Northland.
Police executed search warrants at 13 addresses in New Plymouth, one in Otaki, one in Auckland and seven in Northland. Ten vehicles were also located and searched in New Plymouth.
A total of 22 people have been arrested. Eight men and two women were arrested in New Plymouth, one man in Whanganui, one man in Auckland and eight men and two women in Northland, which includes Rebels members and associates. This includes one high ranking Rebel gang member in Northland who has been charged with unlawful possession of a firearm - a loaded cut down .22 pump action gun which was hidden in his home. More arrests are anticipated over the coming weeks. Other charges include conspiracy to supply methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy, cannabis cultivation, drug possession and participation in an organised criminal group. Two men from New Plymouth also face theft of electricity charges.
Results of the search warrants include evidence of two cannabis grows at separate New Plymouth addresses. One was in full operation with in excess of 50 cannabis plants. Eight grams of white powder believed to be BZP was also located in New Plymouth, as was an imitation rifle. Documents that Police propose to use in a Proceeds of Crime action, were located an address in Otaki, as well as cannabis and cannabis oil.
Seizures from addresses in Northland include the previously mentioned firearm, five stolen computers, cash, in excess of 18 ounces of cannabis, and small quantities of cannabis oil, three 'point bags' of methamphetamine and two vehicles due to fines warrants being in existence.
Today's operation involved approximately 80 police staff from Central and Northland Districts as well as OFCANZ. One of the New Plymouth warrants was executed with the assistance of the Armed Offenders Squad.
"Back in February we made it clear that we would not tolerate criminal gangs pedalling misery in our communities," said Detective Inspector Chris Bensemann. "Some have chosen to ignore that message and continue to try and gain a stronghold. If they think we are just going to sit back and let this happen they can think again. We don't want them in New Plymouth; we don't want them in New Zealand.
"Existing gang members should be under no illusion that we are aware of your criminality and the criminality of your associates and our focus will continue both overtly and covertly. Those thinking of joining the ranks should think twice. There is no strength in numbers in this scenario. All you can expect is to place yourselves directly in our line of sight and it will be your downfall."
The evidence being obtained by Police also strongly contradicts claims earlier this year by a national Rebels spokesperson that the group is about family and has a "no-drugs policy".
Northland Police Crime Manager, Detective Inspector Karyn Malthus, said: "We said to the Rebels, when they first came to Northland that they weren't welcome, and we will continue to support our communities. We will not stop targeting gang members, and we will work together across the country in doing so."
Since October, and prior to today's operation 17 gang members, believed to be associated to the Rebels, have been arrested for a variety of offences. The majority have been for conspiring to deal or supply methamphetamine and possession of drug equipment with intent. Other charges have related to firearms, weapons offences and violence.
Sentencing is also reflecting the enormity of their crimes. In one example, 38-year-old Palmerston North man, Nathan Bush, pleaded guilty to his involvement in a methamphetamine ring and was jailed for six-and-half-years. The patched Rebel was also ordered to forfeit a car worth about $3,000, a $10,000 Harley Davidson bike and $15,000 cash found at the time of his arrest in February this year.
If you have information about drug manufacture or supply, ring your local Police Station. Alternatively information can be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.