Grassroots police team gets results
Boycie Nelson and Tama Morehu aren’t just two men in blue uniforms — the kids in their neighbourhood know them by name.
‘‘To me that’s success,’’ their boss Sergeant Tim Lockwood says.
‘‘You’re not going to find that in statistics anywhere, but when kids are coming up to me and saying ‘where’s Tama’ or ‘where’s Boycie’, that’s success.’’
Mr Nelson and Mr Morehu are members of the seven-strong Rosebank Waterview Neighbourhood Policing Team which is approaching its second anniversary.
It’s one of one of 33 Neighbourhood Policing Teams rolled out in New Zealand’s high needs communities since 2010.
The teams work intensively in small areas on the most local issues with the hope of stopping crime before it happens and building the image of police.
In late 2011 Mr Lockwood and his constables kicked things off by surveying residents about what they saw as the biggest issues facing their community.
At one end of the scale complaints ranged from youths drinking in parks and reserves, along with general vagrancy, and begging around the Avondale town centre.
At the other end was people jumping fences to take shortcuts and motorists driving down the flush median strip on Rosebank Rd.
‘‘Sometimes what we think are the problems aren’t the problems,’’ Mr Lockwood says.
As well as making headway on most of these issues, crime is down generally.
The reductions equate to several hundred fewer offences in the area over the last six months compared to three years ago.
There are two Neighbourhood Policing Teams in the Auckland City Police District with the other in Glen Innes.
The suburbs were chosen based on a vulnerability index that takes into account factors like socioeconomic status, unemployment, age, and demands on police.
The Auckland district was divided into 100 small areas.
Waterview sits in about 10th place and Rosebank is sixth.
The teams are only expected to stay in their areas for three to five years. A big part of their job is sowing the seed of police trust and confidence for the future.
That means street barbecues as a platform to spread crime prevention advice and regularly visiting schools to build relationships with young people.
Officers like Mr Nelson and Mr Morehu have become part of the furniture at the schools in their patch including Waterview Primary School.
Some of the team have helped out on school camps and Mr Nelson coached an Avondale College rugby league team last year.
‘‘It’s about sending the message that if everything is good we’ll just be there to say ‘ hi’ and if something goes wrong we’ll be there to help you if you’re a victim.
‘‘But, just because you’re a student and we come and see you every week in the good times, you’re still going to be held to account by the same people if you steal someone’s car, or break into their house, or have a fight and beat up one of your fellow students.
‘‘We’re not necessarily going to see a reduction in crime from going to the schools now, but in five years’ time we might, if all those kids have positive impressions of police and they also know if they do something wrong we are going to do our job.’’
The team works alongside a Neighbourhood Safety Panel which is a group of community members who meet every couple of months to be a voice for the community and help plan events.
Familiar faces: Constables Tama Morehu, left, and Boycie Nelson from the Rosebank Waterview Neighbourhood Policing Team.
Team leader: Rosebank Waterview Neighbourhood Policing Team Sergeant Tim Lockwood.