Gangs arrive but no police

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 07:30 16/04/2014
Seddon
Derek Flynn

Seddon - once a bustling rural village with a resident GP, Policeman and several rural supply stores. Now Seddon is bustling with gang members during grape pruning season

Anna Muir and Brigid Hammond
Anna Muir and Brigid Hammond proudly wearing their "I love Seddon" t-shirts during the Tussock Run

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Seddon residents are worried the town will become a hub of criminal activity after an influx of residents with gang affiliations and no resident police officer.

A Seddon woman, who does not want to be named out of concern for her safety, said the Awatere community was concerned government agencies like Work and Income and the Corrections Department were placing convicted criminals in Seddon to work in the vineyards.

The population in Seddon doubled during the winter pruning season from about 500 people to more than 1000, she said.

"It's a great little place to be sent, it's cheap housing and there's work," the woman said.

"A lot of the workers, they come from the North Island, from Gisborne and Hawke's Bay, and they have gang affiliations. We know they do - it's easy to find out, you just have to troll through the internet and you see their names linked to the police."

The biggest concern was for elderly residents who felt intimidated, she said.

"We are a small rural town. It's not acceptable they continue to relocate people into an area where there is no policing," she said.

"It's not fair on the elderly who feel they have to get inside and lock their doors at night. We don't have the luxury of street lights or footpaths here."

She had talked to police, who said they would organise a meeting with Awatere residents to hear their concerns.

The community constable used to visit at least once a week, she said.

"He would drive around, he visited people and schools," she said. "His presence was here, but we lost that."

Residents were concerned that more people would be arriving in Seddon for the upcoming pruning season but there were no police keeping an eye on crime, she said.

Many people did not report minor crimes because they thought nothing could be done about it, she said.

"It takes 20 minutes to get a cop out there. You get through to a line in Christchurch. Are they going to send someone for a petty theft?

"If they're not going to put a cop in Seddon, don't put [people with criminal convictions] there."

Not all of those with convictions or gang affiliations were causing trouble though, she said.

"There are some who are great workers, but there is no policing and the numbers are just growing."

Corrections Marlborough manager Polly Cunningham said a range of factors were considered when assessing suitable accommodation for offenders.

Public safety, proximity to schools and an offender's particular risks of reoffending were all taken into account. Work opportunities were also considered, she said.

Corrections provided a report, including an assessment of the suitability of proposed addresses to the New Zealand Parole Board to consider.

Corrections managed 18 offenders on parole in Marlborough, meaning they had served two years or longer in prison, and 17 offenders on release conditions - those who served less than two years in prison.

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The figures could not be broken down to areas.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman said that he contacted Marlborough area commander Inspector Simon Feltham after hearing members of the Mongrel Mob had established themselves in Seddon.

"They have their concerns out there," he said.

"It's a small town with no resident police officer.

"I can understand where they're coming from and I'm interested to see how the police will address that."

Sowman planned to follow up with Feltham after he met with residents, he said.

Feltham could not be reached for comment yesterday.

- The Marlborough Express

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