24 Aug 2016

Ross residents push to bring back community cop

9:10 am on 24 August 2016

Locals in a West Coast town are pleading with police to have a community officer reinstated in the area.

There's concern over a lack of police presence in the West Coast town of Ross.

Locals are concerned over a lack of police presence in the West Coast town of Ross. Photo: Supplied

In a meeting at Ross' community hall on Tuesday, the West Coast area commander heard from residents concerned at a lack of police presence in the area.

Peter Bennett served at Ross' police station for 21 years until 1996, and still lives in the township of 300 residents.

Mr Bennett said things had gone downhill since the sole charge position at the Ross Police Station was made vacant in May 2015.

He said while times had changed since he was in charge, the importance of community policing had not.

"It defies logic and common sense to not continue with that role and to close the station down, and what, put another traffic officer in Hokitika?

"When we are without a crime busting cop, it just doesn't make sense."

Last year the police began reviewing staffing in the West Coast and at the start 2016, proposed the establishment of a new tactical squad with a focus on organised crime in the region.

It also proposed the sole charge position at Ross be disestablished, with stations in neighbouring towns, road policing staff and the new tactical squad supporting the community instead.

But that decision was put off, pending a stand-alone review by the new area commander, Mel Aitken.

The position in Ross has remained vacant while the review is carried out.

Ross Community Society chairperson Charlie McBeath said the community had made it clear it wanted the position filled.

"It's an integral part of a small community, the local policeman.

"There is talk of tactical squads and stuff, I think he is our tactical squad."

Early this year police back-tracked on its decision to axe the only constable position at the West Coast township of Karamea.

Buller District mayor Garry Howard said West Coast towns were having to fight to keep community policing going.

"We had success at Karamea and I feel for the people of Ross because I'm not convinced that drive-by policing or drive-to policing is the answer for good, community policing and security."

Area commander Mel Aitken declined to be interviewed by RNZ, but a statement from police said a decision had yet to be made on the Ross position.

A second meeting between Ross locals and the police has been scheduled for 29 August, with a final decision expected to be announced on 1 September.

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