Teen hangout pad concern for police

BROOKE GARDINER IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 05:00 24/05/2013
Leroy Garrick
GRANT BRYANT

ASSOCIATES: Leroy Garrick and two teenagers sharing what appears to be a bottle of spirits.

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A Queenstown man who allows local teens to use his house as a crash pad denies under 18s are consuming alcohol and drugs on his property and said parents should not be concerned about their children hanging out at his house.

Park St resident Leroy Garrick confirmed school pupils spend time at his house but denied any underage drinking or drug consumption was taking place on his property.

"The drinking doesn't happen here," he said.

Police have visited the house several times.

Garrick, who has been imprisoned twice, has friendships with a large number of teenaged Queenstown girls and boys on his Facebook page.

Late on Wednesday morning The Southland Times photographed him in central Queenstown with two teenagers, sharing what appeared to be a bottle of spirits.

Asked why a 24-year-old man would want to hang out with teens as young as 15, Garrick said he was "pretty much" a friend who gave teens somewhere to hang out.

"Well would you rather they get drunk in town and f***ing sleep under a bush or would you rather them come here and crash?"

Garrick denied school pupils were hanging out at his house when they should be at school.

"No, they're all banned," he said.

Asked specifically if any of the people sitting inside his house were meant to be at school when visited yesterday afternoon, Garrick said "No, no, we all live here".

However, at least one 15-year-old enrolled at Wakatipu High was clearly visible inside the house at the time.

Garrick accompanied some local teens to court appearances on Monday. When asked if he had gone as a support person, he replied "Yeah, yep pretty much but I don't really want to talk about it".

Garrick said he was reluctant to talk because police had raided his house this week.

"I'm not happy at all about it. I mean we had them come over six times in one night."

Sergeant Blair Duffy confirmed police visited the house on Tuesday in the search for missing school-aged children.

They located a bong and cannabis at the property.

No-one claimed ownership so no charges were laid and they were seized for destruction. Police also discovered legal highs and synthetic cannabis at the property.

If parents contacted police concerned about the whereabouts of their children the address would be high on the list of those to search, he said.

"This is a known address. We will be conducting further inquiries at that address."

Senior Sergeant John Fookes would not comment on specific questions about Garrick but confirmed police held concerns about some of the people local teenagers were associating with.

"From time to time we get information about individuals, or sometimes groups of individuals that certainly have the potential to lead others astray, particularly vulnerable young people and school students."

Wakatipu High School principal Steve Hall said police had approached the school about two weeks ago to raise concerns about some of the people known to be associating with pupils outside of school.

"We're pretty aware of this . . . This is affecting a small number of kids, but it is definitely affecting them and their families."

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"One or two" of the people police had raised concerns about had "attempted to make various contact" with the school,  Hall said.

One of those was Garrick, who had visited the school and asked office staff for information about enrolling himself. There was no follow up on the initial enquiry.

Parents and caregivers of the pupils were aware of the situation, he said.

"Our concerns aren't about this guy alone. There are some other characters in the community that our kids can get drawn to."

- The Southland Times

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