Citizens join crime fight
By CHRIS HARROWELL
Howick and Pakuranga Times
Counties Manukau Police is trialling a new scheme that will enable the community to work directly with officers in the field.
Acting senior sergeant Keith Olsen, who is co-ordinating the project, says the teams will work with residents to identify concerns people have.
“We’re setting up neighbourhood safety panels made up of representatives from the community,” he told the Times.
“Once we have a list of maybe 10 problems, we’ll identify those we want to specifically tackle.”
From the consultation he’s already had with residents, Mr Olsen has learned some of the issues causing concern centre on road policing, speeding drivers, youth access to alcohol and disorder in public places.
The neighbourhoods are being selected based on an index system used to identify communities most in need of police intervention.
The initial areas where it will go into action are Flat Bush, East Tamaki and Otara.
The scoring looks at demographics, socio-economic status, schools, population base and age.
It’s then overlaid with demand to find the areas most in need.
Teams will focus on prevention rather than reaction, and will be visible and accessible day and night to residents of the neighbourhoods.
“We want the community to be empowered, and develop the capability and resiliency to take care of itself,” says Mr Olsen.
“We have reduced demand for police services and crime.
“Police want to spend less time reacting to crises and more time working with the community in prevention strategies.
“The majority of people are law-abiding and want the best for their families and community.
“Some of them have lived in the same place for a decade or more, and feel a sense of ownership of their patch.”
The aim is for teams to be trialled in other districts later this year and then rolled out nationally from 2012.
Police will target criminals they know are active in the areas involved, and will spend a period of up to five years in particular locations to deal with crime.
The neighbourhood safety panels will be made up of people who represent, or can speak on behalf of, groups.
The police are taking steps to identify people they believe will suit the roles and will then approach them to ask if they want to get involved.
Mr Olsen says police are also in the process of asking people door-to-door if they are interested in starting a neighbourhood support group. If they are, their information will be passed on to group co-ordinators.
Sergeant Paul Devane, of Otara police, who is in charge of the Flat Bush operation, says the project has been “going very well” so far.
“We have surveyed residents and that information is being analysed,” he says. “We are working on operational plans to find the best way staff can be dedicated to the problems in Flat Bush.”
Mr Devane and his team are liaising with local schools, and the staff and management of Dawson Road and Botany Junction shopping centres.
They are also working with the guardian of Barry Curtis Skatepark to ensure it’s a safe area for people to socialise.
“We’ve had some good success in regard to graffiti,” says Mr Devane. “We’ve managed to identify some of the main players in Flat Bush and Otara, and they have been apprehended.”
One of them was a 13-year-old boy, who has been referred to Youth Aid, and the other is a 16-year-old who will attend a family group conference.
“It was thousands of dollars in damage so it’s been an ongoing problem,” he says.
“The community is also concerned about disorderly behaviour by youths, particularly at night-time, so we are trying to keep a lid on that.
“We are dedicated to problem solving in Flat Bush.”