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United to tackle crime

Times Online
28 September 2010

By CHRIS HARROWELL


FIGHTING crime may not be everyone’s idea of a fun way to spend their free time, but for some people it’s a chance to give back to the community.

Raymond Sik and Ayleen De Vilder see it as a great way to meet people over the fence and help make their streets safer.

Both are involved with Neighbourhood Support New Zealand, which works with the police and other organisations to reduce crime, improve safety, and prepare people for emergencies and natural disasters.

Mrs De Vilder, who has served as a street co-ordinator for the past three years, has now stepped up to area co-ordinator.

Her job is to identify streets that would benefit from having a neighbourhood support group, and she’s also responsible for creating groups and helping the street co-ordinators who then manage them.

The South African-born volunteer is now area co-ordinator for Pakuranga and Bucklands Beach. As it is a large area, Manukau City is looking for someone who can share the load.

Mrs De Vilder, of Half Moon Bay, has seen how effective the network is at combating crime and bringing residents together. “It’s a great way to meet your neighbours and to give back to the community,” she says. “As migrants, it’s a neat way to meet Kiwis and other migrants, and it helps them feel as though they belong in the street.”

Mr Sik, who is originally from Malaysia, wanted to get involved to create a secure environment for his family.

The IT consultant works from his home in Pakuranga and is aware of methods burglars use to commit crimes.

“It’s quite hard to get a stable environment [in the street],” he says. “There are a lot of short-term residents, and quite a few who come and go.

“A lot of people come to suss out the place, and a person can just walk up to the front door and pose as someone else. We have to be more alert.”

The father-of-one hopes his experience in IT will enable him to upgrade the neighbourhood support website and “make it easier for people to connect”.

Mr Sik and Mrs De Vilder have met constable Merv Hotter, of Howick police, to go over their new roles.

Mr Hotter says street co-ordinators are only responsible for the surrounding houses because “if it’s a big area, it makes it too hard on people”.

The street co-ordinators are responsible for passing information from area co-ordinators to neighbours, and are only needed to give about five minutes a week to the role.

“We assist them in setting up a meeting and we just need a house to have it in,” explains Mr Hotter. “We go around to advise on home and personal safety.

“We also provide information on crime trends and tips on how burglars operate.

“That takes half-an-hour and that’s it. It’s just normal interaction so area co-ordinators can have a point of contact at street level. It’s simple but effective.”

Mr Hotter says it’s helpful for police when neighbours know each other.

“It is quite satisfying when we go to a house that has been broken into and people from around the street come to offer support,” he told the Times.

“They have to be the eyes and ears. We can’t do our job very well without them.”

Anyone wanting to get involved in neighbourhood support can phone Lyn Blaker, Manukau City’s manger of community safety and health, on (09) 262-8931 or email lyn.blaker@manukau.govt.nz


Source: http://www.times.co.nz/cms/news/2010/09/united_to_tackle_crime.php

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