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Stand on Preston Rd

By KAREN MANGNALL, Manukau Courier
13 November 2009


Dave Wilson’s a man on a mission. “It’s time to take back my neighbourhood,” the Otara grandfather says.

After 43 years living in Otara, the last 10 on busy Preston Rd, he’s fed up with residents being at the mercy of burglars and bashers.

The final straw came when his son, a father of five, was beaten up in the street and robbed of his jacket and running shoes.

“It was upsetting as a parent and as a grandfather,” Dave says. “He was lucky to actually come back home. I was angry.”

Determined to set up Preston Rd’s first Neighbourhood Support, he started knocking on doors – and got an earful.

“People were telling me that other kids have been badly beaten. At the same time people are getting robbed once, twice, three times and one guy had been robbed five times.

“People’s cars are getting broken into as well.”

Of the 86 households he visited, about 60 indicated they would join.

“And they were saying: ‘About time’. I was getting growled for not starting earlier.”

The group’s first meeting at the East Tamaki Primary School hall drew 18 residents.

“We had a good turnout and we’ve had a lot of people saying they want to come along to the next one.”

One woman who’d become “quite paranoid” about home security burst into tears, saying she already felt safer.

“With people breaking into our houses, for all of us it’s a scary thing,” Dave says.

“We know that they don’t fight with their hands, they carry knives.

“Our main concern is our mums, wives, kids and grandkids, the ones who are at home.”

He’s also fed up with gangs “running around here” trying to recruit youngsters.

“It’s not funny when people won’t let their kids out of the gates because they’re scared.

“All we’re trying to say is we want to keep this neighbourhood safe for our children.”

Neighbourhood Support works closely with police and other groups to reduce crime in local communities.

The Preston Rd Neighbourhood Support is already the biggest of the 23 in Otara. Everyone who joins gets Neighbourhood Support signs for their windows and letterbox stickers warning “If I don’t call the police my neighbour will”.

“We’re looking after each other,” Dave says.

That includes keeping watch over each other’s houses and over East Tamaki Primary School and letting taxi and bus drivers know Preston Rd is a “safe spot” to get help.

“If you make a big noise we’ll come out and help – we’ve got your back.”

Dave says the group will meet once a month to swap information about local problems.

“We want to know if there are any fights, who’s selling something they shouldn’t be selling, gangs starting up, things like that.”

He likes living on Preston Rd but says its residents do get “a lot of dramas”.

Otara has a bad reputation, he says, but “if you get to meet your neighbours it’s actually quite excellent”. And he should know after his weeks of door-knocking.

“I can stand outside and say I know everybody from here to there,” Dave says, gesturing the length of Preston Rd.

Plans for the Neighbourhood Support include recruiting local shopkeepers and more residents from side streets. They also hope to stage community events, like a big day out for families at the local school.

And Dave has some fashion dreams as well.

“I’m thinking of getting a singlet with 274 Neighbourhood Watchout!’”

All Preston Rd residents are welcome to the next Neighbourhood Support meeting at East Tamaki Primary School hall at 7pm on November 26.

To set up or join a Neighbourhood Support group, contact your local police station, visit www.ns.org.nz or phone 0800-4NEIGHBOURS.

Source: http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/manukau-courier/3057460/Stand-on-Preston-Rd

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