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Policing and strengthening communities
With 12,000 homes vacated by fleeing residents and many street lights out, there was a high risk of burglary and looting. Kiwi police officers took to the streets alongside their Australian counterparts, Defence and Fire personnel and Māori Wardens.
Eastern suburbs such as Bexley and New Brighton were badly hit by the quake and subsequent flooding. The area is home to many of Christchurch’s poorer families with few options but to stick it out without power, water or sewerage. There was a serious question of how people who struggle through a normal day would get their next meal, says New Brighton Sub-Area Controller, Senior Sergeant Roy Appley.
“Roads were broken, houses were broken, people were suffering. We made a conscious decision to invest in human capital,” he says.
Staff at New Brighton have worked hard to build relationships with community groups. Grace Vineyard church, across the road from the station, was an obvious partner to set up a welfare distribution centre.
Pastor Sam Harvey estimates the centre cared for 10,000 residents while the bulk of efforts focused on the CBD. “The implications of us not doing this, in terms of social unrest, would have been quite nasty,” he says.
Roy acknowledges that providing food and water for people isn’t a core policing role, but believes it has paid huge dividends as his staff interact with the community.
“Our strategy is about strengthening communities. This was an opportunity to show people exactly what that means. Providing tangible help, reassuring them and interacting with them so we can make the best decisions for the future.”
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