Police restructure could result in increased crime, union says
A proposed restructure of Central District police could result in increased crime in some communities, the head of the Police Association says.
Project Balance, a police consultation document, could see the number of officers working from smaller rural stations around the central district, including some in Taranaki, reduced, Chris Cahill said.
Taranaki area commander Inspector Keith Borrell directed inquiries to District commander Superintendent Sue Schwalger who confirmed police were consulting with staff on the best way to deliver services across the district - which includes Taranaki, Whanganui and Manawatu.
"However, there are no changes to Central District's overall constabulary numbers and no stations will close as a result of this proposal," Schwalger said.
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While Cahill wouldn't discuss individual stations he said the proposal would delay police response times to some communities and result in increased crime in rural areas.
"There's every possibility that they will have a lesser permanent presence in the community, and the service will be affected because of some of these changes without a doubt.
"We don't believe that some of these communities affected will get the level of service that they have now or that they deserve."
Cahill said while there had been new initiatives and teams established, police resources had not been increased to meet the new demands which was frustrating frontline staff.
"We are now having to rob Peter to pay Paul by moving staff from some areas to meet these extra demands for service.
"We did a survey of our members and one of the key things that came out was that the officers don't believe they were able to deliver the service the community deserved and this will just heighten that within the Central Districts region."
He said police should be provided with the additional resources now and then look at where they were needed to meet demands.
Schwalger said the views of staff were being sought to ensure the future organisational structure was focused on prevention and enabled resources to be deployed to best meet the demands of the communities served.
"We have and will be consulting at a high level with our major stakeholders, however to go into specific detail prior to receiving feedback from our staff would be somewhat premature."
Joe Rauner, of the Waitara community board, said he had heard the number of staff in the town would be halved under the proposal.
"It's a disgrace really and it's another kick in the guts for Waitara," Rauner said.
"Criminal activity is going to increase because they know that they have 20 to 25 minutes to do what they have to and get out of town before we get a police presence here."
Rauner said it was already difficult to get hold of police and with the town's population growing reducing staff was a step in the wrong direction.
"These guys who have made these decisions have never been to Waitara before so what do they know about our needs.
"What does the community have to do - get together and go vigilante? That's what the police say you are not allowed to do."
New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom said he had been reassured the proposed changes would not impact the level of frontline policing in the district.
"Our community is a safe one and the police do a fantastic job here and Detective Inspector Borrell has assured me they will continue to maintain the same high quality of service to the people of North Taranaki, including Waitara, Inglewood, Oakura and Okato, and that is the critical thing," Holdom said.
He said it was sensible to review the way services were delivered to see if things could be done more efficiently.
"Police will simply be doing this work in a different way with a lot of the office-based paperwork having been centralised outside of the region."
Stratford mayor Neil Volzke said he had been assured the town's police station would remain open.
"The information that I was given was there will not be much change, although I haven't seen the details to know exactly what that entails."
He said further information would help give some certainty and assurance the proposal would serve the community well.
"I would be concerned if they did something that did cause delays in response times."
Schwalger said staff consultation ran through until November 28, and all feedback would be considered before a final proposed structure and deployment model was prepared.