Dealers sell with cops nearby

By MELANIE LOUDEN - Manukau Courier | Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Some drug dealers are so desperate to make money they're letting their customers buy from tinny houses knowing the police are watching.

That's one of the shock findings police have come across in Operation Buyer Beware, a blitz on people buying cannabis in Otara.

Counties Manukau police eastern area tactical coordinator senior sergeant Karyn Malthus says the buyers are brazen and the dealers often let their customers buy drugs knowing police are watching.

"Dealers are tending to send a lot of people away saying the police are down the road," Ms Malthus says.

But some, desperate to make money, have started making sales again.

"They are letting their buyers get caught."

This is one of a number of surprising discoveries made as part of the operation.

"I'm finding it relatively informative. I imagine the community would find it rather shocking," Ms Malthus says.

Between March 8 and 19 police made 24 arrests. Thirteen of them were made over seven days.

Of the 13 people arrested, the youngest buyer was a 17-year-old from an east Auckland high school and the oldest was 55. Five had previous convictions.

Ms Malthus says one tinny house has been closed after Housing New Zealand evicted the tenants.

Housing New Zealand told police that in the space of an hour, while they were there dealing with the eviction, about 20 people turned up wanting to buy drugs.

"That also happens quite often when we are executing search warrants," Ms Malthus says.

It is startling just how many buyers are people who work with machinery, she says.

Among those arrested were a cabinetmaker, plant technician, locomotive engineer, kitchenhand, fitter and turner, panelbeater, storeperson and factory worker. Three were unemployed.

Two were high school students, and one of them was buying cannabis during school time.

Three of the 13 buyers live in the Counties Manukau east policing area - Otara, Meadowbank and Botany Downs.

The rest had come from Papatoetoe, Manurewa, Manukau, Auckland city, Papakura and Tauranga.

They face charges relating to the possession of drugs and vehicles being used in the commission of a crime.

Operation House of Cards started on Wednesday. It sees the details of gang bosses and specific gang members pictured on a deck of cards.

The cards have been given out to police officers trying to find the offenders.

Green MP Nandor Tancoz says police would be overstepping the mark if they gave employers the names of people they bust buying cannabis.

South Auckland police have this month arrested more than 50 people allegedly buying from tinnie houses in Otara.

Mr Tanczos says the police role is to prosecute people who break the law, and informing employers is not part of the job.

“Where's it going to stop? Are they going to start looking at who buys a beer from the pub so they can inform employers? It’s just well beyond their responsibilities as police officer and for my mind, if they spent more time investigating real offences, crimes of violence and crimes of theft, they wouldn’t have any time to be going to talk to employers about someone who might have bought a tinny one day,” Mr Tanczos says.

He says research shows Maori are seven times more likely to be charged with possession of marijuana than non Maori


One of the country’s top Maori policemen is challenging Maori families to take more responsibility for whanau members who get in trouble with the law.

Superintendent Viv Rickard, the Waitemata District commander, says the small percentage of Maori involved in crime need their whanau to show them another way.

Mr Rickard says Maori support systems should kick in before it's too late.

“Some people aren’t taking individual responsibility, and it’s everyone else’s fault. Well, I know people have had some bad starts, but as family, Maori, we’re fantastic about getting around people when they die. It’s when they’re alive that I actually want us to get around our young people,” Mr Rickard says.

He says there is little to be gained from blaming the government or the system if relations break the law.

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