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Drop in crime a relief for retailers

A recently-released Foodstuffs survey indicates there’s been a 38 per cent increase in reports of retail crime in its North Island stores in the past year, along with a 36 per cent increase in serious incidents involving assault, aggression and threatening behaviour.

In January, Masterton New World owner Clive Webber told the Times-Age that the level of theft and abuse being experienced by his staff was the worst he’d seen in five years.

However, it now appears that Wairarapa is bucking this wider, North Island trend.

At the beginning of the year, youth crime in particular was a concern for Webber but he has noticed an improvement in his store over the past few months.

“We definitely had issues with youth, but it has subsided. Many parties have got involved and, on that side, we’ve definitely seen a reduction.”

Webber said he is very appreciative of the assistance provided by those other parties – including Masterton District Council [MDC].

“It just shows you as a society, we can achieve anything,” Webber said.

“We just all have to stand together and decide what the best course of action is and try to help.”

As reported by the Times-Age in April, one aspect of that response has been the establishment of cross-agency leadership group – spearheaded by MDC – to focus on supporting high-risk youth in Wairarapa, with a membership including senior figures from police, the Ministry of Social Development, and iwi.

The group last met on 30 May to discuss early intervention opportunities for children and young people and their families.

Council community development team leader Kelsi Rutene said issues such as family harm incidents, delayed implementation of healthy homes standards, and privacy concerns were also discussed.

“The discussions emphasised the crucial need to uplift families out of poverty,” said Rutene.

According to Masterton Deputy Mayor Bex Johnson, who is also involved in the group, a key focus is on the earlier identification of at-risk youth.

“We recognise that there are families that are struggling, and for lots of reasons that the children have been affected,” Johnson said.

“Instead of being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, we want to be at the top of the cliff.”

Johnson said the group is in the process of working out how best to offer support and assistance to families with at-risk youth.

“We want to start with one local family, and make a difference,” said Johnson.

“Hopefully that trust will then flow on to other families, that they know this is something they can have faith in.”

Wairarapa Police Area Prevention Manager Acting Senior Sergeant Gill Flower confirmed police have observed a fall in youth crime incidents since January.

“There are still shoplifting incidents,” Flower said, “but these once reported are followed up within 24 hours, thanks to a new enquiry team set up by Wairarapa Police to deal with local retail crime.”

Another aspect of MDC’s youth and retail crime response was to facilitate the establishment of a retailer’s business support group, which – according to councillor Stella Lennox – has the aim of helping “address challenges around antisocial behaviour and … bring back vibrancy and positivity to the Masterton CBD”.

The business support group next meets this evening.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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