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Bad old days long gone

Crime statistics are improving in Wairarapa.

HAYLEY GASTMEIER

[email protected]

Crime has dropped about 20 per cent in Wairarapa in the past year, with community leaders saying the region has seen dramatic changes since the bad old days of a couple of decades ago.

Wairarapa may feature New Zealand’s “most beautiful” city and town but it hasn’t always been a desirable place to raise a family.

Over the past few decades the region has known for its gang population and being centre stage in some of the country’s most shocking murders.

But these days Wairarapa punches above its weight on multiple fronts, and the crime rate is steadily dropping.

Police say this could be down to a change in how they deal with first and second-time offenders, nipping a life of criminal activity in the bud, while a youth leader says it’s about making young people feel valued and creating an engaged community.

Wairarapa Area Commander Inspector Scott Miller said the region was not what it used to be.

“Wairarapa over the past three decades has changed dramatically on the criminal landscape.

“In the 1980s and 1990s, Wairarapa had some horrendous murders – we haven’t had a murder in six years.

“Back then you’d see a lot of patched gang members, you’d have high-profile gang fights and serious overt crimes.”

These days gangs were inclined to “stay under the radar”.

Miller said overall crime across Wairarapa had decreased between 17 and 22 per cent over the past 12 months, depending on the crime.

Burglaries across the region had “dropped dramatically” to about 10 to 12 a week on average– it was once up to four times that figure.

A snapshot of crime reports over Wairarapa for one week in August shows 31 calls to police came from incidents in Carterton and South Wairarapa.

Masterton generated 79 calls to police, which Miller said was probably relative when population was considered.

A new initiative, Te Pae Oranga, that focused on a preventative approach to offenders, was contributing to the down-turn in lawbreaking.

Miller said instead of sending first and second time low-level offenders to court, they were being put before a panel of iwi and police representatives, who worked with community partners to address the cause of the offender’s illicit behaviour.

Miller said there were more jobs and activities for the region’s youth, keeping them away from a life in crime.

Youth development coordinator Alan Maxwell, of the Wairarapa Whanau Trust, has made a huge difference in Featherston, where youth offending was a serious problem just a few years ago.

“When I first moved here [from Masterton in 2015], most of the youth didn’t feel very welcome or as though they were part of the community or even wanted.”

He said with little on offer for young people in the town “the odds were stacked against them”.

They were hanging out at the skate park, interacting with gangs, and anti-social crimes like vandalism were at an all-time high.

Maxwell had been appointed as a full-time youth worker to South Wairarapa by the Anglican church, which recognised the issue, and the lack of presence of social agencies in the area.

He began a youth programme which engaged the teens with the community through activities like gardening working bees and fundraising events for community projects.

He said the youth group “grew rapidly”.

It had more than100 members within the first eight months of launching.

“The minute they felt like they were part of the wider community, all of the trouble stopped.

“They had a sense of belonging.”

South Wairarapa Sergeant Richie Day agreed the youth group had made a world of difference.

“Youth crime used to be a huge problem, now it’s pretty much non-existent.

“That’s largely down to Alan Maxwell taking charge and developing a youth programme and getting youths into the community.”

Day said high concentrations of criminal activity were usually due to a few individuals.

When they were caught, things generally settled back down.

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Absolute rubbish! There is as much crime now as there ever was – in fact, the reality is, is that it’s much worse. The difference is, is that after a number of years of no action from police on matters that were important to people (i.e. burglary) that people now no longer bother alerting the police to half the crimes that they witness, given that the expectation is that the police will do nothing even after reporting. Whether this view is fair to the police or not is irrelevant… but either way, many people feel that the police are merely a money-pit into which we throw our taxes, yet the only time we ever see one is when they’re flashing their lights behind you for a random stop. In the last year, I have watched cops drop rubbish out of their windows onto the street, I have seen one cop punch a pregnant lady in the head, I have seen another cop dislocate a young woman’s arm. Right now, I wouldn’t trust the cops in Masterton to man a pedestrian crossing, never mind entrust the safety of my children on Masterton’s streets into their care. So, I call BULLSHIT! There are less reported crimes, but let’s be clear…c rime itself is on the rise… unless for some reason you consider that meth production, distribution or usage isn’t a crime! Masterton is under a cloud of the white stuff right now… but apparently the police aren’t even aware of it!

  2. I would say that the clubs are still around, but there is an awareness that the behaviour and actions of the past were no good for anyone, a new generation of leadership and a positive community focused outlook has been adopted by many, these people care about their whanau and their community and i would take my hat off to those that have made efforts for positive change and also those that are taking a stand against the destructive folly and scourge of methamphetamines, Mauri Ora.

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