Crime in troubled suburbs takes hit

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 05:00 26/05/2014

The jailing of an influential criminal has changed gangland Christchurch and contributed to a significant drop in crime in one of the city's most troubled suburbs, police say.

The senior patched gang member's jailing, along with the work of a specialist team of police who have immersed themselves in the community, has led to a gang's "disintegration" in Phillipstown, police said.

Many drug dealers and tinny houses had disappeared from the suburb too.

Crime had fallen by about 28 per cent since a Neighbourhood Policing Team (NPT) was established in the area in October 2011.

Serious assaults, dishonesty offences and wilful damage had halved and there had been no murders in the same period.

The dramatic changes can be seen in the latest police-generated crime maps, which reveal where staff were called to across the city last year.

Computer modelling has allowed police to identify hot spots and deploy frontline staff into the areas at the right time.

Other significant changes include:

● A reduction in crime in Riccarton, which police attribute to the success of the West Riccarton NPT's work with students in the area.

● More calls to the central city, which coincides with the return of restaurants and bars to the area.

Strict suppression prevents The Press from identifying the gang member who lived in Phillipstown, until he was arrested last year. He was later jailed for six years after admitting an horrific assault on a child.

Christchurch area commander Superintendent Andy McGregor said the arrest helped police disrupt the gang's activity and make significant inroads into crime in suburb.

"Without him there it [the gang] just sort of disintegrated," McGregor said.

"There is no obvious gang colours in that area now."

Phillipstown resident Dawn Tunnicliffe said police had done a great job getting rid of gang members and drug dealers.

The senior gang member who was locked up used to "prospect all the kids in the area to do things for him", she said.

"As soon as he left it changed for the better.

"We don't have the young people breaking bottles and causing fights."

McGregor said the police focus on preventing crime was working well in other areas of the city. Provisional figures showed total crime was down 12 per cent on this time last year.

Visibility was key to curbing crime and on weekends - the peak time for alcohol-fuelled crime - extra front-line staff were out on the streets. Up to 250 police could be rostered on in the city during a 24-hour period.

In Riccarton, the number of burglary, disorder and grafitti incidents has dropped significantly since the NPT of six police immersed itself in the area between Matipo St and Wharenui Rd in January 2012.

The NPT, a three to five-year project aimed at preventing crime, has paid particular attention to students, who often fail to take simple security measures like locking their homes.

Canterbury district deployment manager Inspector Peter Cooper said good management of student events, coupled with liquor bans in the area, had been effective in reducing alcohol-fuelled crime.

The increase in police calls to the central city was inevitable as businesses returned to the area, Cooper said.

Staff were working closely with the council and bar owners to make sure the area did not become the hot spot for alcohol-fuelled crime it was pre-quake, he said.

Police want a one-way door policy from 1am, a 3am closing time for inner-city bars and a 1am closing for suburban bars.

"We don't want another beer drinking culture of 'How hammered can you get in Christchurch?'," Cooper said.

- The Press

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