Patrol provides extra eyes for police
Timaru's oldest patrol member 'extra eyes'ESTHER ASHBY-COVENTRY
At 85, Jim Ellens is the oldest community patrol member in Timaru.
He may be a pensioner but that does not stop him passing on valuable information on crime.
Fortunately he does not need to chase suspects on foot, instead sitting in a car and reporting them to police - freeing up police resources for more important incidents. "We are not allowed to get out of the car or get in any danger," he says.
The octogenarian is a founding member of Timaru Community Watch which was started 18 years ago.
In 2001 it came under the national umbrella of Community Patrols of New Zealand.
Mr Ellens is one of 25 volunteers who is on a roster every five weeks to note anything suspicious every Friday and Saturday night from 10pm to 3am.
They are sent to hot spots by police and will also keep an eye on patrol cars while officers are busy, to ensure they are not damaged.
The former mill worker took on the role when he retired and plans to continue as long as he is able.
He does not see his age as being a barrier and says he has never nodded off yet while on patrol.
"It's doing something. It's better than sitting around doing nothing worthwhile."
Sometimes the patrol will find a business has left its windows open and will shut them, or report someone doing graffiti.
Mr Ellens says he has never been scared while on patrol.
"Nine out of 1o nights it's mundane."
He admits it has been unpleasant being sworn at and the car kicked by "unruly mobs".
"They take their frustration out on the car."
He has noticed troublemakers becoming worse.
In his day the worst he and his mates did was smoke behind the bike shed or drink from a keg of beer hidden behind a dance hall.
"I would have got a lashing from my dad if he'd known."
Mr Ellens believes young people today do not respect authority.
"They will not accept our principles and liquor is the worst part."
One of the volunteers will sit in the police station watchhouse and keep track of the community cameras.
Though the volunteer patrol has no authority to make an arrest, Mr Ellens says "we act as a deterrent".
- © Fairfax NZ News