Res­i­dents laugh at 111 so­lu­tion

Waikato Times - - News - KA­T­RINA TANIRAU

At the foot of Mt Te Aroha sits a tight knit com­mu­nity fed up with crime in their town.

Com­mu­nity mem­bers turned out in force at a pub­lic meet­ing at Moun­tain View Church, or­gan­ised by res­i­dents keen to hear some proac­tive so­lu­tions to es­ca­lat­ing crime.

It in­cluded most re­cently, the de­lib­er­ate at­tack of home­less man Graham Jack­son’s van while he slept at the back of Te Aroha Li­brary. Peo­ple came armed with ideas in­clud­ing sup­port­ing Te Aroha Com­mu­nity Pa­trol by sign­ing up as vol­un­teers, hav­ing CCTV cam­eras in­stalled and sup­port­ing lo­cal po­lice, who they be­lieved were un­der-re­sourced.

The gath­er­ing, which drew over 150 peo­ple, got off to a tense start how­ever when Mata­mata-Pi­ako district coun­cil­lor Ash Tanner re­ported on a meet­ing with mayor Jan Barnes and Po­lice District Com­man­der Bruce Bird.

It was sug­gested the best thing for peo­ple to do when they be­come vic­tims of a crime was to ring 111. That was met with bursts of laugh­ter from the crowd, clearly an­gry and frus­trated by what was per­ceived as a lack of po­lice pres­ence in Te Aroha.

Sergeant Vic Sned­don spoke on be­half of po­lice to ex­plain how ru­ral polic­ing had changed and been cen­tralised. Since po­lice of­fi­cer num­bers were dropped and the sta­tion was closed in Te Aroha be­cause of safety con­cerns for vol­un­teers, there was a per­cep­tion pub­lic ac­cess to the po­lice was lim­ited.

Ru­ral sta­tions faced a lack of re­sources and those de­ci­sions were made at govern­ment level, Sned­don said. Res­i­dent Ian Par­sons, a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer in Southamp­ton in the UK, said in or­der to have con­fi­dence in the po­lice, they needed to be seen.

MP for Coro­man­del Scott Simp­son be­gan by at­tack­ing the new govern­ment’s stance on crime and its de­ci­sion to ditch the Three Strikes pol­icy.

‘‘This is about Te Aroha, we don’t want to hear about your pol­i­tics,’’ peo­ple yelled.

The anger di­rected at po­lice, MP Scott Simp­son and district coun­cil­lors, was driven by a real fear in the es­ca­la­tion of more vi­o­lent crimes in the town.

Or­gan­iser John Wat­son re­minded the peo­ple in at­ten­dance that the meet­ing was called to come up with so­lu­tions, not point fin­gers and play the blame game.

‘‘We live in a dis­jointed so­ci­ety where get­ting to know your neigh­bours and look­ing af­ter one an­other are things of less im­por­tance, but not in our town,’’ he said.

Te Aroha Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion chair­man Shaun O’Neill said fol­low­ing on from the in­tro­duc­tion of free wi-fi in Te Aroha’s CBD, the op­tion of in­stalling CCTV cam­era was a re­al­ity.

"We live in a dis­jointed so­ci­ety where get­ting to know your neigh­bours and look­ing af­ter one an­other are things of less im­por­tance, but not in our town."

Or­gan­iser John Wat­son

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