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Commander ponders policing in Wairarapa

Richard Wilson, the recently appointed acting area commander for Wairarapa Police, has told the Times-Age that a district gang disruption unit won’t be immediately introduced to the region.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster and Minister of Police Mark Mitchell announced this week that a new national gang unit – as well as district teams that are expected to have seven staff each – will be formed to get patched members off the streets and curb crime and intimidation.

Wilson said although bigger cities have more gang culture, there is still some activity in the region that will be addressed with a district-level gang enforcement unit, but the initiative is still in its early stages.

“The priority for us is the function of keeping communities safe,” he said.

“We must balance all of our demands because we can’t do everything, but the public of New Zealand expects us to be policing gangs and the harm they cause, and so there is a focus on that for us.

“Part of what makes Wairarapa more unique for police is that being a rural area, there is a lot of distance to cover, so resources can at times be limited compared to larger metro centres.”

Wilson added that the safety of front-line officers will always be a top priority and will always be considered when dealing with gangs.

Wairarapa police are also unlikely to begin wearing bodycams anytime soon, but it’s expected they’ll get new tasers in the near future to “replace the ones we have had for a while which are getting old”.

“The tasers are essential because while we have pepper spray and other tools, sometimes we need more to de-escalate a situation,” Wilson said.

Asked about the issue of organised groups of ‘boy racers’ tearing up the region’s roads, Wilson said this activity appears to have dropped off during recent months, although he noted the region will always be a popular destination for such groups as there is less surveillance and police presence than in cities.

Wilson also observed there have been fewer tickets issued to drivers for exceeding the 80km/h speed limit on SH2 between Masterton and Featherston in the past few weeks.

“We know the roads may go up in speed soon, but these stretches of SH2 are still 80kph, and it has been good to see that people are still adhering to the rules,”

Also on the agenda for Wairarapa police, Wilson said, is action around family harm and mental health, and monitoring bullying at the Masterton Skatepark.

Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie
Freddie Wilkie is a journalist at the Wairarapa Times-Age; originally moving from Christchurch, he is interested in housing stories as well as covering emergencies and crime.

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