Editorial: Police leaving Roslyn would waste efforts

JONATHON HOWE CHIEF OF STAFF
Last updated 12:00 12/11/2012

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OPINION: The Palmerston North suburb of Roslyn is rarely thought of as "troubled" in the same way Highbury was considered to be in the early 2000s.

Of course Highbury was in the grip of a gang standoff triggered by the shooting of 16-year-old gang prospect Wallace Whatuira. The police were a lead agent in the revitalisation of Highbury's image in the years following Whatuira's death, and few would deny the suburb is a better place to live now.

The suburb's makeover was aided by the presence of Highbury Community Policing station officers, who were the accessible, friendly face of authority during the restless time.

A proposed shake-up of the Central District police will impact smaller stations in Palmerston North. Exact changes are under review but reductions in staff and changes in the classification of stations are possibilities.

Central District area commander Superintendent Russell Gibson has said Highbury's station looks set to stay but offered no such assurance for the Rossmont Community Policing Centre.

The Kipling St building is on a short-term lease, while Highbury is owned by the police, so any moves are likely motivated by financial concerns.

Another argument for closing the station is the Roslyn policing area could be patrolled by officers based at the central station. But having community policing centres goes beyond logistics or penny pinching. It is about visibility, prevention and familiarity with people living in the area.

While there has been no watershed criminal act to tarnish Roslyn's image in the same way Highbury's was, it is certainly a place with more than its fair share of lower socio-economic residents and state housing. It has been the scene of some horrific crimes in the past few years, including the manslaughter of baby Cash McKinnon by Sean James Donnelly at a Hulme St house in 2009, and the sexual assault of the late 99-year-old Thelma Lawrence by Glen Patrick Joseph Walsh on Rangiora Ave in 2008.

Police realise Roslyn is a focus area, and have cited disorderly behaviour, burglaries and fighting and youth crime as its main issues.

In an effort to fix the problem, police have entered into a joint project with the Palmerston North City Council to hopefully build a stronger community with less crime.

Some of the community initiatives designed to buck the trend include after-school homework groups, community cooking classes, free parenting lessons and free school lunches. One would hope these initiatives will continue regardless of the station's status but no doubt residents will have plenty of questions.

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The Roslyn area has some great officers doing excellent work right now. It would be a shame to see all that work go to waste for the sake of a few dollars.

- Manawatu Standard

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