Stratford launches community patrols
Leon Gray-Lockhart, Stratford Press
At a special launch ceremony held at the Stratford District Council Chambers last Friday evening, supporters, volunteers and friends of the new Community Patrol rung in the new initiative, with speeches given by chair of the trust John Sandford and Police spokesperson, Shaun Keenan.
The Central Taranaki Safe Community Trust set up the Community Patrol in December 2009 in collaboration with Stratford District Council and Stratford Police, the idea being to establish and promote a collaborative working relationship with Police. “Community patrollers act as the eyes and ears of the police by patrolling the community in pairs in a specially marked vehicle,” says trust administrator, Mary O’Sullivan.
“Patrollers note anything that could be suspicious and inform police immediately of incidents requiring urgent attention.” In turn, the police notify the patrol of suspicious activities and trouble spots they would like the patrol to keep an eye on, as well as inform the patrol of events occurring in the area.
“The community patrols are an excellent tool for both the community and the police,” says acting senior sergeant of the Stratford Police, Darin Haenga.
“Patrollers have no powers of arrest, and aren’t expected to confront people who they regard as suspicious. They simply let the police know what they see. Because volunteers are in pairs and in vehicles it’s fairly low risk.”
Community patrollers also monitor the CCTV cameras in the Stratford Police Station.
“Having the volunteers monitoring the cameras is extremely helpful for the police. If camera volunteers see something, they can zoom in on it and then call on the police straight away to go and investigate. Because they’re not stuck monitoring the cameras themselves, the police are free to go to where they are needed most.”
Already volunteer interest in the patrol has been growing; a situation suitably pleasing for all those involved. “Participation seems to have doubled since we started the patrols up, which is fantastic.”
So far, the local community response to the patrol idea has been great and currently, there are 13 registered volunteers. “The volunteers have all signed up because they genuinely want to help serve their community,” says Mary.
“Each volunteer has signed a declaration of confidentiality and agreed to abide by a code of conduct before working with the patrol. A signwritten vehicle has been provided for them.”
To coordinate community safety initiatives such as the Community Patrol, the trust has employed Community Safety Officer, Dalwyn Smart.
“Dalwyn will also be responsible for co-ordinating Neighbourhood Support and any other Community Safety initiatives,” says Mary. For all those involved, the community patrol is so far proving to be a real success, cutting crime off before it starts.
“Police generally have to step in after an offence has occurred, which is a reactive measure; the Community Patrol is proactive and sees people in the community taking real responsibility for their community.”
Stratford’s community patrol is affiliated with the National Community Patrols of New Zealand – an organisation that was established in 2001. Stratford’s patrol is a community-funded initiative, with Taranaki Electricity Trust as the major funder.
“We’re all very pleased and are looking forward to serving the community to make Stratford a safer place for everyone,” says Mary.