Sergeant to move on

01:00, Aug 04 2010
RESPECTED AND RESPECTFUL: The soon to be detective sergeant Stephen Ambler.

When sergeant Stephen Ambler arrived on Waiheke as a detective, he was faced with aggravated burglaries, smash and grabs, intruder rapes, stabbings and a number of violent crimes associated with the large methamphetamine use by many islanders.

Now, more than five-and-half years later, the level of crime on the island has dropped to such an extent the police reports printed in the local papers sometimes show no arrests at all.

Mr Ambler's main area of interest is drugs – the manufacture, selling and purchase – plus crimes associated with the industry.

He spent a year away from Waiheke as a detective with the drug squad in Auckland using what he learnt to tackle the problem when he returned.

He's had some good results. In fact he's probably a victim of his own success.

With the island now the safest area in the Auckland region "by a long shot" he is ready for more serious investigations and, having just turned 40, says he's keen to get back into mainstream police work.


The much-sought-after policeman has been asked to join the initial response team of the criminal investigation bureau for the Counties Manukau force.

Promoted, and with the new title of detective sergeant, he will be responding to serious crimes.

He says there's a lot going on in south Auckland with good levels of staff who seem to be addressing the local issues.

While keen to further his career, Mr Ambler says he'll miss the island immensely.

"I'll miss the sense of community which is one of the highlights and I'll miss the interaction with the island. The people here stand up for what they believe in, a lot of which is in line with what the police stand for."

He quotes drink driving as an example, with the police enforcing the law and the community putting up billboards to promote safer drinking habits.

He recognises the island is a "fantastic place to raise a family" – son Ben is in his first season playing rugby and took home the player of the day certificate last weekend – but that aside, he needs more challenges.

When asked what have been some of the most exciting moments during his tenure here, he says coming across the fire at Woolworths and having to fight it until the Fire Service arrived, and achieving a significant decrease in the level of violence associated with methamphetamine.

He has also gained satisfaction from all the positive comments he has received from the public.

"Being appreciated makes the job," Mr Ambler says.

He admits, however, living on Waiheke has made him instantly recognisable and therefore on call 24 hours a day. He has had to keep a professional distance from everyone because he could not predict who he might be dealing with tomorrow.

"In the city I will be more anonymous. I will be able to work my shift and then go home. Here I have to be accountable whether I am on duty or not."

Leaving the island in a completely different state to how it was when he arrived means he will have huge shoes to fill, say the stalwarts of the police station, sisters Sue Philcox and Margaret Sly.

"Sergeant Ambler has done so much for the island. People stop us in the street to thank us for the work he has done and the manner in which he has gone about it.

"He has so much respect for people – whichever side of the law they are on. He is very approachable, totally professional, anyone and everyone can talk to him and he makes people feel safe.

"He is a great role model for our younger policemen and we are really going to miss him."

Mr Ambler is due to take up his new post on September 12.

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