Meet the rural policing team – Constable Michele Clarke, Community Sergeant Ian Osland, and Senior Constable Yancy Hawkins. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
The rural community will be the centre of attention for a new policing team.
Wairarapa police officially launched a dedicated group-of-three to cover the countryside last week.
Meet your new rural cops: Community Sergeant Ian Osland, Senior Constable Yancy Hawkins, and Constable Michele Clarke, who will already be familiar to many farmers.
In a way, Michele has spent the last 18 months paving the way for the rest of the team.
She was appointed to focus on the region’s rural areas in 2016 and her efforts are paying off, with more crimes being reported now than before, and solid foundations being built with farmers, beekeepers, and various groups and organisations, including Taratahi Agricultural Training Centre and East Coast Rural Support Trust, which has an emphasis on mental health.
Wairarapa once had a dedicated rural police officer but that position was lost in a restructure a few years ago.
Michele has been working hard to rebuild those lost connections and, since her deployment to the rural sector, much more suspicious activity was being reported.
“There’s certainly more intel coming through,” said Michele, who has been in the police force for 10 years.
Ian said with the new team would come more patrolling, but the main motive was prevention and to build up community resilience to rural crime.
Police nationwide were making a concerted effort to increase their connections with the rural sector, through initiatives which included the crime prevention tractor that made occasional appearances in Wairarapa at rural community events.
“Rural crimes go under reported, anecdotally.
“Research by FMG and Federated Farmers has shown that farmers live a very busy lifestyle and sometimes reporting crime just doesn’t sit high enough on their work commitments and so part of what we’re doing is recognising that and hopefully being able to provide a more visible connection.”
Yancy could back this up, having been a farmer in a previous life.
“As a farmer, reporting crime wasn’t one of my top priorities.”
He said accessibility was the main reason farmers did not report crime, and educating people on how to report incidents and why reporting was important would be a priority.
“I’ve come to this because I can look at it from both points of view and hopefully I’ll be able to offer something.”
After 18 years in the force, Yancy said it was the variety that made being a police officer a great job.
Ian said the new initiative was about building relationships, and growing rural neighbourhood support networks, with the potential for rural community patrols to be set up — depending on what the needs were.
“It gives us the opportunity to actually take a deeper look at trends that are happening and apply some evidenced-based problem-solving techniques to rural issues.”
Police preventions manager for Wairarapa, Senior Sergeant Gordon Crawley said not long after Michele was assigned to the rural community, it become clear that there weren’t enough resources in that area.
The additional rural-focused officers were a result of the government’s announcement last year that 880 extra police officers would be introduced into 12 police districts, including Wellington which the Wairarapa region falls under.
“The idea for these guys is to be working with farmers and rural partners to prevent crime, harm and loss in those communities.”
The late Wairarapa area commander Inspector Donna Howard advocated strongly for the extra rural staff.
“It was her influence at a senior level that got it across the line,” Gordon said.
It would provide insurances to the rural population that they had easy accessibility to police.