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No substitute for beat police

By Don Farmer

[email protected]

Official statistics confirming foot patrols by Wairarapa police dropped off sharply in the year to the end of June will bring little comfort to residents.

Compared to a year earlier foot patrols dropped from 1836 to 1393, a drop of around 25 per cent.

The retreating figures relating to police on the beat has been explained away by Wairarapa Area Commander Donna Howard as being due to patrols being deployed to high risk areas and to reprioritising police to other duties such as road policing and liquor licence checks.

She rightly said she wants her staff to “be in the right place at the right time doing the right thing”, but then went on to perhaps get closer to the nub of the problem.

That desire, Ms Howard said, could sometimes mean foot patrols were eased off in favour of other methods including “mobile patrols”.

In other words, police were more likely to be seen on-patrol peering through a car windscreen than walking the pavements of the CBD.

While the former may be the quickest method of moving staff about, the fact remains that in the minds of the townspeople it is a poor substitute for a visible police presence on the street.

A passing police car is a very impersonal way for people to connect with the guardians of our society and while nobody expects every second constable to be trudging by on foot, never seeing them and not being able to recognise one from the other is hardly conducive to harmonious relationships.

It is recognised Ms Howard has to satisfy the wants of those in head office, but she is nevertheless the person who has to carry the can here in Wairarapa and to try and cover all the bases within the resources made available to her.

Claims, especially by labour leader Andrew Little, that police are stretched too thinly and that there are less of them now per head of population than just two years ago has a definite ring of truth.

After all, Greytown police station is now no more and the station in Martinborough has been downgraded simply to an office not open to the public.

The odds of people living in those two towns seeing a policeman patrolling their town on foot would be very long odds indeed.

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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