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February 2009
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Policing ‘street by street’ working in Melville

The new community policing team in Melville, Hamilton, is showing positive results just two months in.

Officer in charge of the team, Sergeant Paul Francis says the response by locals towards the team has been overwhelmingly positive, and resident and business surveys show they are really hitting the mark in terms of gaining community trust.

The team is operating from a number of places in the neighbourhood, including the community centre, the hospital and Fraser High School.

Melville was chosen as the location for the six-month trial due to a combination of factors.

The area has a large youth population, hosting eight schools, so youth interventions and working with families are key priorities. The recent Waikato Hospital review had made recommendations for establishing such a base in the hospital.

Members of the Melville community policing team, from top left clockwise Sergeant Paul Francis, Constable Nick Sickelmore, Constable Perry Griffin, and volunteers Dian Stark and Robin Fletcher.

Photo: Hamilton This Week

There are also high levels of calls for service, particularly around burglary and disorder, as well as a number of ‘offenders of interest’ in the neighbourhood.

In addition, the two existing community constables had already done substantial proactive work that could be built on by the team, and there was a base that could easily accommodate them.

“We need the community’s input in order to increase safety, and reduce burglary, disorder, domestic violence and graffiti,” says Paul. “By setting ourselves up within the community and operating as part of it, we hope to gain their trust.

“We are working closely with other agencies, schools and community groups to find creative solutions to help prevent crime and road trauma.

“Our traditional reactive response to a burglary, for instance, is for us to arrive once the emergency call has been made, but by then the crime has been committed,” he says. “The community policing response is to ask ‘What can we do as a community to prevent that 111 call being made in the first place or being made again?’”

A sergeant, two community constables, two problem-solving constables and a campus officer make up the team, while Youth Aid, Youth Education and iwi liaison officers provide additional support.

Paul says the team has also had invaluable support from their many community volunteers, the team of Community Patrollers and the Neighbourhood Support Group coordinator, as well as volunteers who man the office and take calls.

“Encouraging early signs include a major drop in both burglary and graffiti and offenders are even handing themselves in to the team,” says Paul.

“On three separate occasions all it has taken has been a phone call to a family advising them a family member is wanted on warrant for that person to voluntarily surrender themselves at the community base to avoid a possible visit from the tactical squad.”

Acting National Manager Community Policing, Inspector Carey Griffiths says setting up a neighbourhood-focused, team-based approach to community policing is helping realise Commissioner Howard Broad’s vision of policing New Zealand street by street, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

“We are planning to establish a number of these teams around the country in the areas where they are most needed and can have the greatest impact, including among some of the 300 new Counties Manukau staff,” he says.

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