Patrols cutting crime levels

Volunteers keep burglaries down

VICKI WATERHOUSE
Last updated 07:57 23/05/2012
Community patrol
WARWICK SMITH/Fairfax NZ

Watch out: Community Patrol volunteers Brian Burns, left, and Nancy Willis, keep an eye out for crime on Russell St.

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Community groups patrolling areas at risk of crime are being credited with helping reduce burglaries in Palmerston North.

Acting Senior Sergeant Phil Ward said the number of burglaries in Highbury, the area around Palmerston North Hospital and Terrace End had previously been growing.

At the beginning of the month there were about 40 burglaries a week in Palmerston North.

That had been halved in the past two weeks, he said.

Mr Ward said a new initiative had seen the volunteer Community Patrol group and Maori wardens out on the streets in areas that had been hit hard by burglaries.

They were reporting suspicious behaviour to police and had made it harder for would-be thieves to go about their business, he said.

"We've also got [police] staff patrolling the areas to create a hot zone for the offenders to have to work in," Mr Ward said.

Normally the Community Patrol could be seen at night in The Square, particularly at weekends, so this was a new use for the group, he said.

"They're obviously getting a lot of attention. They're our eyes and ears."

Community Patrol co-ordinator Rose Williamson said anecdotal evidence suggested the group had reduced the burglaries in the areas they had patrolled by 70 per cent.

"It's been a huge bonus for us and the police," she said.

They had reported suspicious behaviour to police and were also keeping an eye out for possible car thieves.

The response from the community had been positive, she said.

"It gives them a bit of reassurance that somebody is watching out for them," she said.

Ms Williamson said the patrols followed no pattern and happened in both the morning and afternoon.

They would continue for as long as was necessary, Mr Ward said.

He said there was a possibility it could lead to criminals targeting new areas, but police would reassess the situation if that happened.

Mr Ward said the reduction in burglaries could also be attributed to several arrests made in the past week.

A group of five 14-year-old boys, allegedly responsible for a number of burglaries in Takaro and Highbury in the past three weeks, were being spoken to by police.

Six Palmerston North people had also been charged with allegedly receiving stolen property and another person had been charged with burglary.

"We've made some big inroads on the burglary front," Mr Ward said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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