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Less police walking the beat

By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

The number of Wairarapa police foot patrols has dropped 24 per cent since last year.

New figures show there were almost a quarter fewer foot patrols in the region in the year to June than in the previous year.

The data also revealed drug offences in the region were up, as were burglaries and robberies.

But Wairarapa police say the increase in crime is not directly linked to fewer foot patrols.

Wairarapa Area Commander Donna Howard said patrols were deployed to high risk areas and the drop in numbers could be a result of reprioritising police to other duties like road policing or liquor licence checks.

The police figures were released to the Labour Party under the Official Information Act.

In the year to June 2015, police conducted 1836 foot patrols in Wairarapa.

This number reduced to 1393 in the year to June 2016.

In 2016 the number of burglaries in the region rose from 715 to 815 and there were 16 robberies, five up from the year before.

There were also 45 more drug supply charges and an additional 41 drug use charges.

“We recognise the impact that crime has on victims, and prioritise our prevention activities and resource deployment as appropriate,” Ms Howard said.

“The deployment of foot patrols in Wairarapa or any other area is an operational decision which will vary day-to-day depending on tasking priorities.”

Ms Howard said foot patrols were generally deployed to high risk areas in the community, where they could make the most difference in reducing crime and victimisations occurring.

“We want our people to be in the right place, at the right time doing the right thing.

“This can sometimes mean that foot patrols may have reduced in favour of other activities such as mobile patrols, road policing, static patrols and liquor licence checks.”

She said patrols were an important part of policing, in that it gave police a presence in the community.

Foot patrols helped prevent “behaviour escalating from troublesome to criminal”.

“However, foot patrols are just one aspect of police prevention work,” Ms Howard said.

“We do not believe the increase in crime can be contributed to the reduction in figures for foot patrols.

“There are many drivers of crime and it would be unwise to try to attribute it to a single factor.”

The Labour Party wants to increase police numbers by 1000, bringing the total number of officers to 10,000.

That would bring the police to population ratio back to below 1 to 500, as it was in 2008.

Labour leader Andrew Little said police were “currently stretched far too thinly” to stop most criminal activities.

“There are fewer police officers today than there were two years ago, despite the population growing by 200,000,” Mr Little said.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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