Hui identifies strategies to cut Raglan crime rate

Strengthening neighbourhood support groups, installing high-tech CCTV in prime spots around town and keeping youth better engaged are among suggestions to come out of a hui held this week in response to Whaingaroa’s growing crime rate.

Other suggestions at Tuesday night’s forum – led by Raglan ward councillor Lisa Thomson and Raglan Community Patrol Trust chairman Kevin Holmes – included setting up three-monthly police-stakeholder meetings and educating the community around police availability in the district 24/7 through 111.

Everyone’s accountable and needs to report crime, the 30-odd group of community representatives gathered in the town hall heard. It was agreed that too much was being routed now through social media rather than through the police.

Police needed to be informed by the community, said Inspector William Loughrin, the area commander West Waikato. From his perspective Raglan was still considered a “safe” community but social challenges and the cost of living had led to increased crime in a growing community. 

There were always opportunities to improve safety and support the more vulnerable like our youth.

He revealed that while serious crime like burglaries and assaults were decreasing, there was a rise in thefts and intimidating behaviour nationwide. More cars are being broken into and stolen, and there was a “significant increase” in young people stealing from outside people’s properties. 

The “gang landscape” was a real focus in Raglan for police, he said, as evidenced by a rise in gang membership and the clothing worn by a certain people.

Drink-driving was still an issue, he added. Police were doing more random breath-testing but “we need to step up as a community”.

Kevin Holmes asked if there were any plans to increase police staff in Raglan. It had been a three-person team for decades, he said, yet the number of licensed premises had grown from about four when he was a police officer to around 20 now,

Inspector Loughrin  pointed out that “we operated six staff here over summer”. He said it was a balancing act as the Raglan station was not fit-for-purpose and it was not safe to have someone there alone.

He  reassured the forum that “we can have 30 staff here in 30 minutes” if need be. “We have got to use our 100-plus staff wisely across the district.” 

He added funding was already in place for improving CCTV coverage in Raglan, which business owners were keen to support. The new high-tech system could read every vehicle registration, giving advance notice of stolen cars in town. It would be a great asset, “a visible shield in the community”. 

The hui heard Raglan Community Patrol had only 18 volunteers and was crying out for “new blood”, but did now have dash cams front and back in the patrol car.

Strengthening neighbourhood support groups was also seen as a good way to offset crime in the community, as was forming a police-stakeholders group similar to a “Vibrant Safe” initiative operating in Waitomo.

“We have a platform for moving forward,” Kevin Holmes summed up at the end of the meeting. 

Inspector Loughrin said he was keen to build on the momentum with the group of key stakeholders in attendance. “We need collective buy-in now,” he said. “We need to connect the dots and work together towards solutions.” 

By Edith Symes