Residents laugh at 111 solution
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