Levin’s Mayor wants greater police powers after weekend violence

An outraged mayor of the Horowhenua is calling for greater police powers to deal with “large mobs” after a gathering of more than 200 cars in Levin tumbled into violence at the weekend.

Police were pelted with rocks and bottles as efforts to dismantle the crowd allegedly sparked hostilities on Saturday night leaving some officers injured and police cars damaged.

Two people – one who was allegedly found with a flick-knife – were arrested and six cars impounded after dozens of police sought to quell “anti-social road user activity”.

“Around 30 police staff, deployed to the area pre-emptively, were put at serious risk due to the aggressive behaviour of many of those involved.”

Wanden told Morning Report police had sent extra manpower “but it obviously wasn’t enough”.

It was hard to pinpoint what went wrong. However, he believed some people had arrived determined to incite violence.

It would be difficult to ban these types of events, Wanden said. Some would probably try to flout the law by gathering in large numbers somewhere.

More than 200 cars – each containing multiple passengers – began gathering in a carpark on Bath Street around 8pm on Saturday.

Manawatū area commander Inspector Ross Grantham said the car convoy then converged at the intersection of Queen Street and State Highway 57, before attempting to do burnouts there,

“Police staff managed to disrupt the activity and move them on, but not before patrol cars were kicked by bystanders, who also threw bottles at the cars.”

The group then moved to an industrial cul de sac in Ōtaki, where they did more burnouts with police opting to avoid the area.

According to police, the convoy then went back to the intersection of State Highway 57 and Tavistock Road in Levin, where they blocked the road and did more burnouts.

A police patrol tried to drive through the group to disrupt them, however the onlookers “turned on the officers, kicking and bottling the car”.

The side window of the patrol vehicle was also smashed.

The mayhem has angered the district’s community leaders who feel officers were “caught between a rock and hard place” that night.

Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden.

Horowhenua District Mayor Bernie Wanden said police powers were too limited to deal with such throngs of people.

“I can understand their inability to handle such a mob,” he said.

“Because they wouldn’t be used to people attacking them like they were.

“I guess they are limited to their powers of dispersal and maybe they need further powers to manage a mob like this.”

Although he wouldn’t be drawn on specifics of what powers they could be equipped with, Wanden felt front-line officers had their hands tied.

“They’ve almost got to stand there and take it and can’t react based on what they’re allowed to do and not allowed to do,” he said.

“In situations like this, this could’ve escalated into something a lot worse.

“It’s absolutely disgusting that people came to that event, prepared to act in a violent way.”

By the same token, and underlining the delicate balancing act facing officers in scenarios like these, police needed to be wary not to “inflame” situations.

“There could be some tragic events as a result.”

Street racing gatherings had become fairly common, particularly around the lower North Island, although an escalation into the violence allegedly seen on Saturday was unprecedented, Wanden said.

Levin Ward Councillor Mike Barker believed police are “too soft” on illegal street-racers and they need to face serious consequences.

He said their cars should either be destroyed or sold to pay for repairs.

Street-racing events in recent months have regularly absorbed police resource throughout the country.

Five people were arrested after police targeted a 200-car-strong street events across Auckland during the Easter break.

Police impounded five vehicles and handed out 50 fines during a crackdown on illegal street racing across Christchurch a fortnight ago.

Last month in Invercargill, a vehicle crashed into bystanders leaving two people injured during an illegal street racing event.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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