Source: New Zealand Police (District News)
Police are putting organised crime in Northland on notice with the opening of a dedicated Asset Recovery Unit office in the district.
This new office will sit alongside existing ARU centres in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch.
Superintendent Tony Hill, Northland District Commander, says the establishment of an office in Northland follows an upward trend of seizures by Police in the district in recent years.
The ARUs use the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to target the profits of illegal activity. Proceeds of crime can include bank accounts, real estate, vehicles, e-currency, jewellery and other high ticket items.
The Asset Recovery Unit office based in Whangārei was officially opened by Police Commissioner Andrew Coster recently.
Its opening will be another tool for Police to further disrupt and dismantle organised crime.
“This enables the Police response to organised criminal activity in Northland to be full spectrum,” says Superintendent Hill.
The district has recently expanded its Organised Crime Unit to the Mid North area, along with the exisiting unit in Whangārei.
There are also two new Precision Targeting Teams now operating in Northland.
A dedicated Meth Harm Unit in Northland also works with other agencies to reduce demand for methamphetamine and around alternative responses for those suffering with addiction.
“Our response now enables us to not only investigate and prosecute organised crime, but it also enables us to prevent the drug harm it creates and now further disrupt their operations with the Asset Recovery Unit,” says Superintendent Hill.
These district workgroups will work closely with the new ARU office.
Detective Inspector Lloyd Schmid, of the Financial Crime Group, says it is well recognised that the vast majority of assets Police restrain relate to drugs, gangs and organised crime.
“Amongst all of this harm there are those who are continuing to prey on vulnerable Northland communities and reap the rewards of their ill-gotten gains.”
In the 2017/18 financial year around $93,000 in assets were restrained by Police in Northland. That figure has risen dramatically to almost $2.5 million in the last financial year.
Already in the current financial year, around $1.5m in assets have been restrained in the district.
“This expansion of a dedicated office means and those indulging in the proceeds of crime in Northland should expect to come to increased Police attention,” says Detective Inspector Schmid.
“Targeting the money made by organised crime is key to impacting their operations and therefore reducing their influence in the community.”
Nationally, the ARU restrained around $101 million worth of assets stemmed from criminal activity last year, which was a 65 per cent increase on 2018.
“The ARU have been increasing in size and today’s annoucement is a part of this growth and ongoing commitment to target organised crime where it hurts – in their pockets,” says Detective Inspector Schmid.
The money derived from forfeited assets is being reinvested back into the communities it was taken from. These initiatives the money funds include support for community safety and wellbeing as well as drug addiction services.
The Whangārei ARU will initially be staffed with four members, who work alongside the other offices based across the country.
Detective Inspector Schmid says information from the public can be of great assistance to Police as part of its investigations.
“The more we know about criminal activity, the better placed we are able to act. We encourage any members of the public who suspect that someone has obtained assets through criminal offending to contact Police or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Jarred Williamson/NZ Police