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February 2009
Home > Road Safety

Operation Rose sees resources pooled
by Kim Perks, Communications Manager Central District

There were no boundaries to policing when four districts joined forces to drive home the road safety message.

During December and January, Central, Waikato, Eastern and Bay of Plenty districts pooled resources to increase visibility on the roads and even introduced air patrols, receiving significant media attention.

Sergeant Bill Nicholson, Palmerston North, who patrolled in one of the fixed wing aircraft during Operation Rose.

Photo: Kim Perks

The initiative – Operation Rose – was aimed at sending a simple message not to drink and drive over the summer. Pre-publicity warned of combined resources saturating the region with booze buses and motorists facing checkpoints, any time, anywhere.

The full results are still being analysed but nearly 36,000 compulsory breath tests were taken with 297 facing prosecution, equating to one driver in every 119 driving while intoxicated. Two distinct groups were identified as a concern: youths and drivers over 45.

Across the four districts, arguably the two highest risk roads – SH1 and SH2 – saw a reduction in crashes during the campaign. Staff rosters and their locations were based on perceived risk, and analysis of crashes during those risk periods shows that the roster was about right.

In terms of coordinated policing the operation has been hailed a particular success.

Inspector Kevin Taylor, Bay of Plenty, was the Operations Manager for the initiative. He’s not convinced that as a district or a country we have won the battle against drink driving.

“When we can police the same location at the same time on the same day, and not catch a drink driver we can consider the tide has turned.

Constable Delwyn McGregor at a checkpoint during Operation Rose.

Photo: Kim Perks

“I do believe, however, that the operation sent out some very clear messages for the future. It was also an excellent example of cross border cooperation and a valuable learning curve for staff.
“Officers got the opportunity to experience regional variations and appreciate the risks and issues that different districts face,” says Kevin.

Anecdotally there was a mixture of results. On SH3 in Ōhakea just before Christmas 2,672 drivers were stopped and not one was found to be over the legal limit.

By contrast Waikato staff at a checkpoint on the Tauranga Harbour Bridge had to call for additional resources when nearly every staff member found themselves off the checkpoint processing a driver.

The additional benefits of checkpoints were also illustrated in an incident on Papamoa Road, Tauranga. A car that had failed to stop for police was heading towards the checkpoint.

Staff cleared the road block and a quick-thinking staff member rolled out some spikes, putting a swift end to the 17-year-old driver’s jaunt in a stolen car. The driver was five times over the legal limit.

As part of the operation some late shifts were changed to provide a higher profile during daylight hours.

“Raising visibility is an effective policing tool. Our experience at major entertainment and sporting events shows that a handful of staff in high visibility jackets who stay on the move can give the impression of police being everywhere, and it will make people re-think their behaviour,” says Kevin.

Both Waikato and Central District used a fixed wing plane for nearly 50 hours across the four areas acting as spotters for patrol cars on the ground.

Motorists are stopped at a road check on SH3 in December during Operation Rose.

Photo: Kim Perks

Road Policing Manager for Central District, Inspector Neil Wynne says the plane received a lot of publicity and got people talking.

“It was a topic of conversation on the streets and we had people saying they had seen our plane flying weeks before it had even left the ground.”

It was important for the aircraft to have good communication with ground staff, and to ensure they were well aware of the aircraft capabilities. Tandem patrol cars were also key – while one car was tied up with a stop the plane continued spotting for the second car.

Intersection and centreline breaches, slow traffic, and reports of driving offences from members of the public were all picked up by the aircraft.

“There are always things you take away from an operation and improve, and there were a few logistical issues and tactical options that would probably be changed, but all in all we think Operation Rose was a totally worthwhile exercise,” says Kevin.

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