Volunteer patrol cash falls short

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 12:00 24/01/2013

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A funding shortage may force Palmerston North's community patrol to fold unless it receives a cash injection from a city organisation.

The patrol, which monitors trouble spots and keeps police informed of any suspicious behaviour, missed out on the latest round of the Palmerston North City Council's community grants and may now have to halve its car fleet.

The voluntary organisation is comprised of 28 volunteers and employs one part-time co-ordinator, Rose Williamson, who is currently not taking a wage because of the funding shortage.

Volunteers work in turns driving the organisation's two patrol cars around the streets and parks of the city, reporting suspicious or criminal behaviour, abandoned cars, graffiti, and unsecured cars or buildings to relevant organisations.

Mrs Williamson said the patrol used to be funded by the Ministry of Justice via the city's Safety Advisory Board, comprising council and emergency service organisations.

But two years ago funding from the ministry changed and is now given directly to the Community Patrols New Zealand (CPNZ) parent organisation.

Each of the 150 community patrol branches around the country must apply for a share of that money.

For the past two financial years, the city branch has been running at a loss, raising about $14,000 of its $25,000 operating costs each year with support from local businesses and grants.

Mrs Williamson said the patrol's work directly benefited the council, so it was disappointing to miss out on funding.

Last year the patrol travelled 9474 kilometres and spent almost 1300 hours patrolling the city and suburbs.

"We understand the council only has a certain amount of money to grant, but no-one else does what we do," she said.

"If we don't get support from the community, we will have to cease."

The patrol has an agreement with the council where petrol costs are paid, but Mrs Williamson said she had been under the impression it was an interim measure. She hopes businesses will step in.

Businesses that give sizeable donations have their logos signwritten on the cars.

Volunteers are trained in first aid and receive security training.

Council community development manager Cathy McCartney was unsure about the exact details of the petrol arrangement, but said she understood it was an ongoing agreement. Forty organisations missed out on a grant from the $1.2 million pool. She understood some of the safe city groups had been talking about how they could work together, and she hoped that continued and the council wanted to be part of that.

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Police acting area commander Senior Sergeant Cliff Brown said community patrols provided a valuable support service. The patrols are based in the police station, have a police officer assigned as a liaison, and police also assist with their training.

Mrs Williamson said the patrol was waiting to hear back on a funding application and CPNZ had approved $6000 for work on the cars. If unable to find funding for the next financial year, it may look at selling one of the cars, but that would lead to a service reduction.

Bands miss out, page 3

- Manawatu Standard

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