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Bay officers return to community policing


Bay of Plenty Times, 30 June 2009

Neighbourhood support networks are being revived as part of a huge swing back to deploying police officers to work at community level in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Western Bay's police commander Inspector Mike Clement yesterday painted the big picture of where they were heading with community policing.

In the space of four years, numbers had risen from the equivalent of one full-time community constable to a total of 22 community-based officers in the Western Bay.

A further six officers worked in youth services and three in community education, bringing the total number to 31. They were split almost evenly between the Greerton, Tauranga and Mount Maunganui stations.

Mr Clement told city councillors that police were organising themselves to reduce crime and road crashes by working with other agencies and community groups.

"We are on a bit of a journey with regard to community policing," Mr Clement said.

He detailed how one of the partners in community policing, neighbourhood support, was being restructured so that the organisation was aligned with each of the police's main patches in the Western Bay.

Police had found that neighbourhood support, once very strong, was now not very strong at all.

They were busy compiling a data base of the network and had received a lot of positive feedback.

Mr Clement said Omokoroa's 51 street co-ordinators were a success story, with big gains in people's perceptions of safety.

Youth development was being restructured in line with a commitment that police did not continue to make statistics out of Maori. Mr Clement said there was no silver bullet solution and it would be a long road which involved designing programmes for the community.

He highlighted the importance of the community centres in Merivale, Welcome Bay and the one planned for the Mount.

Seven community volunteer night owl patrols and three day time patrols were assisting police by helping to be their eyes and ears on the ground.

Mr Clement said the Tauranga South Community Patrol Group was a model of how it should work.

Ground-breaking work, such as how volunteers kitted out their cars and the use of videos, had created a lot of interest around New Zealand.

The Tauranga South group was working in such a way that members could be deployed by police - such as to a location where a lot of shoplifting could be expected.

He said joint initiatives involving police and other government social agencies were meeting with varying degrees of success around New Zealand.

In a first for the Western Bay, staff of Child, Youth and Family, and Work and Income New Zealand, were working with police on initiatives to combat crimes such as family violence and sexual abuse.

He said the six-month transfer of Senior Sergeant Tania Kura to the Tauranga City Council was paying dividends and had created a lot of interest nationally.

It showed how police and council could work together to find solutions. He hoped council would seek a replacement for a further six months, once Ms Kura's work ended in October.

Mr Clement said said there had been a very good response to a survey of social agencies and community groups, so police could better understand how people were thinking.

There were currently 208 sworn police officers in the Western Bay to serve 152,000 people, or a ratio of one officer per 729 people. There were 946 crimes per 10,000 people - 65 fewer than the national average.


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