Mayor: Ram-raiders having a field-day in Cambridge and Te Awamutu
Waipa community leaders in the Waikato are desperate for a change in the way their towns are policed as criminals continue to hammer the district.
Three ram-raids have been reported on Waipa businesses over summer, the latest on a petrol service station.
Cambridge Community Board Chairman Mike Pettit is again appealing for an end to the Waikato Police Hub and a return to 24/7 policing.
The hub was introduced in 2015 and provides Cambridge with police coverage from Te Awamutu overnight.
In the latest serious crime, a stolen car, with five people inside, drove through the glass doors of the gas station at Karapiro, near Cambridge, early on Monday morning.
It followed two days after a ram raid on the Cambridge branch of sport clothing retailer, Stirling Sports, with the company's Te Awamutu branch targeted in the same manner at the end of February.
Pettit, far from happy, said the timing of the raids tell the story.
"These criminals know when the towns are vulnerable and are acting accordingly," he said.
"More of this type of burglary is inevitable with reactive, rather than the proactive policing model we had before changes were made in 2015."
Police hubs not working
Waipa mayor Jim Mylchreest said New Zealand police should stop "relying on statistics" and simply admit Waikato police hubs are failing smaller towns.
He is exasperated by repeated calls from the Cambridge community for a return to 24-hour policing which are falling on deaf ears.
He has again backed calls from Cambridge leaders who this week demanded a return to 24/7 policing in the town.
"For goodness sake, our council raised this issue formally with the New Zealand Police in August. When we didn't get answers then, we wrote to the Minister of Police in October," he said.
"Finally, after an OIA request, a response came back in January which was frankly, pretty hopeless and didn't address any of the issues we raised.
"Since then, what's changed? Nothing – absolutely nothing. Meanwhile, we've got ram-raiders having a field-day in Cambridge and Te Awamutu."
Mylchreest said his community did not accept Waikato police hubs, servicing rural towns from one central police station, were working.
"I don't care how efficient this so-called hub system is. It is simply not delivering the kind of service our community wants, certainly not in Cambridge and not in Te Awamutu or our other towns either," he said.
"People want to feel safe and secure and know that if the police are needed, they'll be there.
"The constant feedback I'm getting is that people and business owners are feeling vulnerable.
"People have told me they have simply given up trying to call the police to report anything because nine times out of ten, police advise they're unable to respond fast enough, or at all."
He believed as a result, crime statistics were now being under-reported.
It was raised with the Minister of Police but it "disappeared into the ether", he said.
"So I'm sorry, but I don't have any faith in claims that the model of police hubs is working and delivering a better community service.
"And I feel sorry for police on the ground who are doing their very best but are being forced to work within a fundamentally flawed system – and they know it."
"My community has been incredibly patient but enough is enough. The whole model of hubs is fundamentally wrong and needs a serious rethink."
Police review urgent
Cambridge Chamber of Commerce chief executive Tania Witheford also wants to see an urgent police staffing review for Cambridge.
"We are experiencing a spate of crime, where vehicles are used as the blunt tool for entry.
"It has the potential to inflict personal, physical harm, as well as significant and costly damage to the victims' property, notwithstanding the cost of stolen items.
"The cost of this crime does not stop there for the victims. There is an impact on staff, health, wellbeing and performance, lost revenue over any period of closure, as well as the cost of the repairs, increased insurance and increased costs in security measures."
Crime statistics obtained following an Official Information Act request presented to the community board and Western Waikato Police Area Commander Naila Hassan in February revealed criminal activity had steadily increased since changes were made to the way police patrolled Cambridge in 2015.
Hassan said at the time she was satisfied with how the new command centre was running, with the staff she had at her disposal, but would continue to "look at the situation".
No comment was received from Stirling Sports at the time of publication.