21 Aug 2018

New police officers need to 'walk alongside the community'

6:34 am on 21 August 2018

Community leaders in the regions set to get a boost in police numbers say officers will need to earn some trust by walking their new beats.

Police generic

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The government has announced an extra 1800 police, 934 of which will be going to the regions outside of Auckland, and all 12 of the police districts will receive a boost in numbers.

Northland is set to get a 25 percent increase in police numbers, with 87 more officers on the beat.

He Korowai Trust provides a range of free services to people in Kaitaia.

Chief executive Ricky Houghton said that people will often call the fire service in his area if there is a problem because they know they will get there quicker than the police, but he hoped the increase in numbers would change that.

He said that ultimately he was thrilled something was being done about the police shortage in the Far North, but hoped it came with a different strategy when dealing with some of the lifestyle choices of people in his area.

"It needs to be more than just profiling people, it needs to be get out of the cars and walk alongside the community, go into the homes, go into these P homes."

Hastings District Councillor Henare O'Keefe agreed that the new officers needed to get out of their cars.

The Eastern Police District will get an extra 114 officers on top of the 423 existing ones.

He said more police would help to reduce angst in the community, but they needed to be the right people.

"Very rarely do you see them walk the beat now, they just flash past at a certain speed and you just see them go past in their cars, whereas in my day they were walking the beat, walking the streets."

Mr O'Keefe said the officers need to get involved with the community and earn their trust.

"Get their trust and their respect and their confidence in you, and that doesn't happen overnight."

Buller district mayor Garry Howard said police were struggling to recruit people in his region.

He said there were currently vacancies at the Westport Station and he was pleased to hear more officers were coming to rural New Zealand, because he believed police presence was one of the most effective ways of preventing crime.

"They get all sorts of information passed to them as a relationship is built up, so don't deal to it after the actual crime's happened, try and actually have a presence and a relationship with the community in the first instance," he said.

Over the next few years 1800 officers will be placed in all policing districts, 200 of which will have a specific focus on preventing crime related to gangs and drugs.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs