24 May 2024

Police, volunteers patrolling transport hubs amid spike in violence

7:38 am on 24 May 2024

More police and community volunteers are on patrol amid a spike in youth violence at bus and train stations.

A Trinity College student was fatally stabbed at a Dunedin bus hub on Thursday.

Another teen was taken into custody and would appear in the Dunedin Youth Court on Friday.

It follows a spate of assaults in Auckland's New Lynn recently, including at the local bus hub, where groups of teenagers have been attacking other young people.

Another person was allegedly murdered at the Albany bus station in September 2023.

A new police initiative called Operation Haumaru will bring together police and volunteers from transport and community groups to keep an eye on commuters.

As the New Lynn Transport Hub filled with patrollers dressed in hi-vis vests on Thursday, one woman told RNZ the area was not safe.

"There's just a lot of violence, a lot of troubled teens ... I've been living here pretty much 15 years, and over those years New Lynn's just become an unsafe place to come to."

New Lynn transport hub.

Groups of teenagers have been attacking other young people at the New Lynn bus station. Photo: RNZ / Maia Ingoe

She said she was hopeful the patrols would make a difference.

"I've got two children of my own, so hopefully it works out."

Another said they had never seen as many patrollers as there were on Thursday.

"I've never had a problem here, but it's just surprising to see fluorescent jackets so I guess there must be a problem here,"

Auckland Transport figures showed there were 44 reports of disorderly, criminal or suspicious behaviour, drunkenness and verbal abuse at West Auckland bus and train stations in April, compared with 29 in March.

The recent violence at New Lynn mostly involved young people, with one of the ring-leaders as young as 12.

Up to 20 patrollers and police staff were monitoring the New Lynn and Henderson transport hubs from midday until 8pm.

Waitematā West's Area Prevention Manager, Inspector Kelly Farrant, said she understood residents' concerns about the increasing crime.

Community Patrol officers at New Lynn station on Monday 20 May 2024.

A patrol at the New Lynn station earlier in May. Photo: RNZ / Maia Ingoe

"From what the community patrollers are telling me, people definitely do feel safer when they see people in hi-vis, whether that's police or guardians, having that guardianship in the area definitely gives them a sense of safety," she said.

"Rest assured, we have a plan, we are working with our partners to make New Lynn a safer place.

"My own children catch the train through here, so I have a vested interest in making sure that young people in particular are safe in here, but also commuters in general."

But Farrant said Operation Haumaru, which meant safe place, was about more than just bolstering the number of security guards.

"What we don't want is to displace the youth and the troublemakers from this area to another transport hub, or another hotspot, so we will be making sure that our people are deployed across as many of those big centres as we can," she said.

"We really want to make sure that the community feels safe while they're catching the train, while they're in and about New Lynn and Henderson.

"The significant number of glow-vests and yellow vests are, hopefully, a really good deterrent to that poor behaviour."

Emergency services have converged on an area near Dunedin’s police station after a fight which has left someone injured.

A teenager was killed at the Dunedin bus hub on Thursday. Photo: Stuff/Hamish McNeilly

Whau Local Board chair Kay Thomas said the neighbourhood was welcoming the patrols.

"I think having patrols like this really is needed," she said.

"They serve two purposes; they reassure the community, and they prevent the fights and intimidation."

Thomas said a number of residents had raised concerns to the local board ahead of Operation Haumaru.

"I was contacted by a number of constituents really concerned about the safety of their children, of their teenage children, around the New Lynn area, especially the train station and the bus station."

'Thoughts and deepest sympathies'

Otago Regional Council chair Gretchen Robertson said the council's "thoughts and deepest sympathies" went out to the family of the teen killed at the Dunedin bus hub on Thursday.

Stop B at the bus hub would be closed on Friday, she said.

"We would be grateful if Route 14 passengers can please board at stop A, and Route 37 passengers should use stop C in the interim while this stop is closed."

Any further media enquiries needed to be directed to police, she said.

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