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Gangs fear P tearing them apart August 8, 2005 - stuff.co.nz
Gangs around the country are banning methamphetamine, commonly known as P, to avoid being torn apart by escalating drug use.
The drug has turned loyal patch members into lying junkies and thrown gangs into strife as they grapple with its ravaging effects.
Canterbury University gang researcher Jarrod Gilbert said gangs had watched the drug slowly erode brotherhood and fuel destructive behaviour among members.
One policeman told him P was doing their job for them, Mr Gilbert said. "If you become addicted you could start stealing off your brothers. If (gangs) have not banned it, they are thinking about it."
In the 1970s gangs banned heroin in the same way they were now banning P, said Mr Gilbert, who has been visiting and touring with gangs around the country for the past three years for a thesis on gang history in New Zealand.
Christchurch Black Power president Shane Turner said the gang would not accept the use or dealing of P because its effects were too destructive.
"It's when you are coming down it's the problem."
Mr Turner, 54, had witnessed P turn people into professional liars.
"P just gives you the superhuman strength to go a bit more," he said.
Mr Turner, who founded Christchurch Black Power in 1974, first came across methamphetamine about 20 years ago when Christchurch was building a name for itself as "pill city".
"It was dearer so the crime changed. You got aggravated robberies and hold-ups. People on P would rip the eyeballs out of their grandmother while she was not looking. That's how bad P is," he said.
Detective Sergeant Ross Tarawhiti of the Canterbury police district crime unit said quite a few gangs were trying to stop members from using drugs but many gangs were involved in dealing.
"They often end up having the product to sell and cut off the product for their own use," he said. Gangs had to adapt as members started to have heart attacks because of methamphetamine use, he said.
"There's been quite a bit of talk that members were druggies as a result of taking it."
Mr Tarawhiti led Operation Crusade last year in busting 15 Mongrel Mob members for drug-related charges, including dealing P.
He said he would be pleased if gangs were banning P but was doubtful it would last because of the vast sums of money they could make from it.
"You can get $100 for 0.1g," he said. Dealers had to sell five times as much marijuana to make the same money, he said.
There had been no sign the P trade was decreasing. "It's getting worse rather than better," he said. "It's got to be pretty bad for them to stop their own guys from using it."
Mr Turner said gangs that banned P were less likely to get caught in dawn raids by police.
Even so, many gangs kept dealing the drug because it was their most comfortable source of income.
"All gangs would like to ban P, but as long as government doesn't give them jobs they will go back to it," he said.
Members struggled to get jobs because of criminal records and tattoos, which often put potential employers off.
Mr Turner, who himself is in his first year studying sociology at Canterbury University, said he hoped a qualification would help him find a job coaching young people.
"I just want to know if the Government can give us something to replace trading. We must have some entrepreneurial skill by now," he said.
"(Dealing P) is a loser's game at the end of the day. Even the gangs know that, but the money is nice."
Mr Turner said P was popular in gangs who wanted to make big money but in Black Power the P high was too dangerous to get involved with.
"If they can't learn from the first puff, then none of them learn at all," he said.
He could not speak for Black Power chapters elsewhere in New Zealand but if Christchurch members decided to use the drug, they would be ostracised, he said.
"I just say to him you are no longer part of this family because you have put yourself in this predicament that puts yours and everybody else's lives in danger."
Campaigners needed to use more educative measures to reduce P use, Mr Turner said.
Mr Gilbert said police over-estimated gangs' involvement in drug dealing.
"Police say 90 per cent of drug distribution is through gangs. That would have to be an exaggeration. The lifestyles of gangs don't always reflect that."
These days, marijuana was the drug of choice and, even then, they probably smoked the same quantities at gang gatherings as students did at university functions, Mr Gilbert said.