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March 2011
 
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Sharp-eyed students take a stand against street violence

High school students are using their sharp eyes and enthusiasm to prevent and detect crime in New Plymouth’s city centre.

Their partnership with Police began a few years ago when disorder in the CBD prompted high school students to organise a street march against violence.

Senior Sergeant Selwyn Wansbrough asked organisers if they were willing to further their stand against violence by providing a few members to help monitor the city’s CCTV cameras from the police station.

“They took up the opportunity and it proved a real success,” says Selwyn. “There were concerns about discretion and maturity, but they proved themselves and we had overwhelmingly positive feedback from the front line.

Volunteers Lucas Macbeth (left) and Mitchell Kemp with the bank of CCTV cameras at New Plymouth Police station.
Photo: Kim Perks, Central District

“We then wanted to develop a permanent programme and formed a partnership with high schools.”

The students are all screened for suitability and work on a voluntary basis, primarily on Friday and Saturday nights and dates such as Christmas and New Year. They also assist for special events including this year’s Rugby
World Cup.

“They’re young, enthusiastic, have sharp eyes and pick up the technology very quickly,” says Selwyn. “We’ve found the work of the students complements that of our more mature operators.”

Many of the students are interested in a policing career so the partnership can also become a useful recruitment tool further down the line.

Students say they volunteer because they get to work with police and provide a community service. They also get the chance to prove themselves and gain experience for course and job references.

Lucas Macbeth, 17, has been volunteering for more than a year, even though he has now left school and is in full-time work. “I want to get into police communications so it’s giving me a great insight into how it all works,” he says.

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