Loss of community constables triggers crime rise fears

GEOFF LEWIS
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2014

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Some of Hamilton's most vulnerable communities are predicting an increase in crime as police officers dedicated to those areas and city council-provided community advisers are centralised.

Western Community Centre manager Neil Tolan said well-respected local constable Paul Tierney had been re-deployed to other areas and the suburb's community development advisers were also being moved out.

The centre had not been formally advised of the changes.

Tolan said having community constables based in the area was valuable.

"Our constables have earned the trust and respect which opens the doors to finding local solutions to local problems," he said.

"These are successful grassroots models which have been ended with no consultation. Our community sees the Hamilton City Council advisers and police services as needs, not wants."

Western Community Centre board chairwoman Jamie Toko said she was "totally annoyed" that the community constables had been re-deployed to other areas of the city. "We were just so lucky to have those guys. They get involved with the kids and that makes it so much safer for the community."

The centre would approach police and city management in an attempt to clarify what was happening with the constables and community advisers, she said.

Te Whare Kokonga-Melville Community House manager Sharlene Roberts said the same thing was happening in her area. "It's a huge concern. Their [the officers] presence in the community is valuable. We could see an increase in crime."

Police Hamilton City area prevention manager Inspector Marcus Lynam said the movement of community constables - more recently known as prevention officers - was part of a strategy designed to increase the availability and visibility of police in the community.

A meeting this week was intended to consider how police would develop the strategy with partner agencies, including the Youth Offenders Team and neighbourhood support groups, he said.

Hamilton City Council community wellbeing manager Jennifer Murray said Nawton-Crawshaw community advisers Ani Nock and Ioana Manu would no longer be based in the area, as was the case with other HCC-employed community advisers in other parts of the city. Instead, they would be based in an central office in Duke St from August.

"I would stress they are not being pulled out of the area," she said. "Both staff members will continue to have local and city-wide projects . . . There are no changes which will affect their roles or service. It will strengthen service delivery into our communities."

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- Waikato Times

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