Masterton District Council [MDC] is spearheading a retailer’s business support group in response to recent incidents in which shopkeepers have been victimised by weapon-wielding robbers and masked intruders.
Gangs of youths with members as young as nine have also reportedly been targeting local vendors, prompting New World Masterton owner Clive Webber to express concern for the safety of his customers and staff, who he said are facing daily abuse.
Establishing the group was initially discussed at a public meeting called by Mayor Gary Caffell before Christmas.
MDC has now announced Councillor Stella Lennox will be the council’s representative on the group.
She is part of a small team working on the group’s formation, along with the mayor, former mayor Bob Francis, and Masterton Trust Lands Trust’s Christine Brewster.
MDC’s community development team will now be contacting all retailers in Masterton to set up a contacts database to support the initiative.
It’s intended that once the group is established, it will be led by members of the retail community and supported by MDC.
Caffell is also working on setting up a leadership group to develop a multi-agency approach to dealing with broader issues faced by the district.
It is hoped the group will involve senior figures from agencies including police, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Education, and Kainga Ora.
Wairarapa area police commander, inspector Scott Miller, said youth crime is a complex matter that needs a coordinated partnership approach and is not something police can solve alone.
He said although police recognise law enforcement plays an important role in helping prevent youth offending and holding young offenders to account in an effective and meaningful way, “this can’t happen in isolation, and needs a range of agencies and community partners to work together to help ensure best outcomes for young people and their families.”
Wairarapa police already work closely with Oranga Tamariki and “our justice sector partners”, Miller said.
“We’d remind the Wairarapa public to report incidents to us when they see them occurring – if you see anti-social or potentially criminal behaviour happening, let police know immediately on 111.”
Although police may not always attend incidents immediately, Miller said knowing what’s happening in the community helps to inform deployment decisions.
Additional reporting by Flynn Nicholls