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2006 National Conference: Commissioner Howard Broad
30 September 2006

'Progress and Partnerships'

I read the theme of this year's conference as a renewed call to action.

'Progress and Partnerships' speaks of the work that has been achieved over the past 26 years since Police introduced Neighbourhood Watch as a crime prevention initiative in the late 1970s.

It reflects the growth of the organisation into an incorporated society that today works under a memorandum of understanding with Police, to build and strengthen positive contact with communities throughout New Zealand. And it indicates a direction for the future.

The theme also suggests that you – Neighbourhood Support – individually and collectively are taking responsibility to make our communities safer places to live in.

But, most provocatively, I think the theme 'Progress and Partnerships' reminds all players involved in this community-based initiative (Police, Central and Local Government, volunteers) to lift the vision.

  • We know that Neighbourhood Support works best at community level. Some groups and some suburbs have it sussed. In others there's very little community spirit let alone action at all. Nationally, things can get a bit frayed too as the dispersed and decentralised nature of the movement makes it difficult to get everyone moving in the same direction.

  • There's a parallel situation in Police itself. Some of our best achievements occur unheralded down at the street level where the actions of individual officers in dealing with offenders and in resolving potentially ugly situations can only be described as truly heroic

  • Then again we see flashes of public admiration for the work of groups like the CIB when they crack a difficult "who dunnit" homicide

  • At other times the full blast of public opprobrium is turned on the organisation as a whole for some high profile but statistically insignificant lapse in service response.

Our aim in Police, therefore, is what I term "policing with confidence" – the New Zealand way.

"Policing with confidence" – the New Zealand way means restoring public trust that when the chips are down your police will be right there alongside you. And when other priorities get in the way of us turning up right away, we'll give you helpful advice on other agencies or services who might be able to assist where we cannot. We'll take all the public's calls for service seriously and we'll be appreciative of any information which gives us intelligence on what is happening out in the community in terms of criminal offending or threats to public safety.

  • This is not something we can do alone, as individuals. You have only to witness the situation in South Auckland where a spate of homicides is taxing resources, to know that we must pool resources to achieve our goal of safer communities.

  • Equally, this is not a new message. You have heard it before. The difference now is that we have, for perhaps the first time in the history of Neighbourhood Support, significant ingredients to grow the organisation into a force to be reckoned with – on a national basis.

Progress over past 12 months

First I must congratulate executive chairperson Ingrid Stonhill and the Board on their completion of a national restructure over the past 12 months.

  • Neighbourhood Support now has a guideline manual, a living document that helps new groups – with the help of Police officers – develop their local group to the standard of accountability and credibility the organisation is now setting nationwide.
  • Neighbourhood Support now has a strategic plan. This maps out how the organisation will grow and strengthen its partnerships. Not only with Police, but with organisations such as Civil Defence, Victim Support, Community Patrols...
  • Significantly, the organisation’s value to the vision of government – to reduce crime in our communities – has been recognised in dedicated funding over the next two years. This will allow Neighbourhood Support to employ a national coordinator... you have worked hard to secure outside funding ...something I'm sure Mr Burton will touch on in greater depth.

Police direction

It is timely that Police have just released a new strategic plan – to 2010.

  • Our vision remains unchanged – 'safer communities together'.
  • But we have a renewed, collective approach to policing which is nicely encapsulated in our mission: "To be a world class Police service working in partnership with citizens and communities to prevent crime and road trauma, enhance public safety and maintain law and order."
  • There are three main Police goals – community reassurance (our drive to connect more meaningfully with communities); policing with confidence (reasserting the basic tenets of good policing); and organisational development (how we prepare ourselves for the challenges that lie ahead).

Community reassurance - for confident, safe and secure communities

  • At the heart of this is engagement. Need for police to engage, listen and act.
  • We need to work better with the community to set policing priorities. This means listening to what you want and setting goals together.
  • Community safety is one of our major challenges and opportunities
  • We are putting 1250 additional police, many of those on the frontline, on the streets and in our communities.
  • 250 community police – will help bridge the gap between current capacity and what we think is a desirable level of community policing.

As a vocal supporter of community policing in the 1990s, I believe that harnessing its power in a modern 21st century policing context is the way to generate the service levels the public nostalgically wish for without the need to have a police officer literally standing on every street corner.

You see, with better intelligence systems and communications technology, the community police officer today is no longer just a "greet and grin" merchant. They are a vital and well equipped frontline resource working alongside and integrated with other frontline units to tackle crime in a scientific way.

Partnership with Police

In the same way, the Police see Neighbourhood Support as a valid community based organisation standing on its own feet and we are proud to have a close working relationship with you.

We are strong advocates – we believe in the value your organisation adds to creating safer communities to live in.

The Minister of Police, Hon Annette King, discerned very early on in her time as our Minister that Neighbourhood Support are one of the very few comprehensive networks in this country with tentacles into most neighbourhoods. She has told your Executive, for instance, that in the realm of public safety contingency planning for matters such as Bird Flu there's a strong case to be made for mobilising the energy of Neighbourhood Support.
Working with you fits with our vision, mission and values. Our vision, for example, to build safer communities together.

Governance realities
As our MOU with you states, Police should not be office holders in your organisation. To do so would be a return to the early days when the reality of Neighbourhood Support was the community supporting the police rather than the Police supporting the community. Neighbourhood Support must be owned and operated by the community to be truly successful.

But Police can have a working relationship with Neighbourhood Support that not only meets Police crime prevention and reduction objectives, but also strengthens the ability of community members to play significant roles within Neighbourhood Support. This can best be achieved by providing encouragement, consistent liaison and the sharing of information.
We do this in some parts of the country better than others – I hear that Neighbourhood Support does not always feel particularly supported by Police.

I can assure you that will change. All Areas and Districts will be left in no doubt that I am a supporter of your movement and that I expect all areas and districts to do their bit to ensure the partnership is not a lop-sided one. I feel we have come a long way together since Neighbourhood Support was first introduced. There are many, many examples of the excellent work Police and volunteers have achieved together.

However, there is much more we can do, and I encourage each and every district commander across the country to look at the opportunities they have to work with volunteers in their communities to help prevent crime and reduce crime statistics.

A new vision for the future

So, what might a new vision for progress and partnership look like?

This district provides an inspiring example. Both Police and Neighbourhood Support people speak enthusiastically of the relationships developed in the BOP. I am told that other areas look with envy at how Neighbourhood Support works here.

I know that District Commander Superintendent Gary Smith is an active supporter of the organisation. He has tasked Inspector John Canning with encouraging all stations in his district to become involved in this initiative. Community constables are a good bridge between Police and the community – good to see so many community constables here today. I’m told that a particularly successful practice arising out of this constructive working relationship is that in Rotorua one community policeman rides a bicycle through the park each morning to round up truants.

It is also a tribute to the untiring work of volunteers in this district that Neighbourhood Support is on such a sound footing – nearly 2,000 groups I believe, about 300 of which have been established in the past 12 months. I'm not going to single anyone out – there will be a special time for that tonight and I don't want to spoil any surprises – but just want to thank you all for your efforts.


We are pleased to hear that the national organisation now has government funding for national coordination for the next two years. For our part, we are committed to continuing to produce crime prevention resources, and hope to be able to accommodate the future national coordinator at Police National Headquarters where he or she can work closely with our Operations Support, Crime Services, Public Affairs and Youth Education specialists.

Best wishes for your conference and the future.

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