Patrolling the backroads

By Roger Moroney

For just over a year now the successful volunteer eyes and ears of the police, the Napier Community Patrols, have been leaving the city limits.

They have been going up country.

It's not that they have left the city streets unwatched - far from it - it's just that a need was recognised and the gears of doing something about it began to engage.

It had been a long-planned initiative patrol co-ordinator Sandy Ibbotson said, adding that after six years of patrolling the city streets it was time to venture out, as the countryside was also part of the greater community.

"It's just a bit further out."

The plan was sparked by Senior Constable Pete Gimblett as he saw it as a valuable preventative programme.

He wanted to get the best coverage for his patch and discussed the idea with Mrs Ibbotson. She hand-picked what she described as a "core group" of volunteers, some of whom were either retired and knew the area or were former farmers who wanted to do something for "their" community.

"We saw them (people in rural areas) as part of our patrolling and policing district - and they can be more vulnerable."

The Infinity Foundation got on board by providing the community patrol car which was brightly sign-written to leave no one in any doubt what it was.

Gardner Knoblock also did their bit by stepping up to provide funds for the running costs.

The patrols are unique to Hawke's Bay - in that unlike other smaller rural areas which have a locally-based patrol they are an expanded part of an urban-based unit.

The volunteer core of 10 operate five patrols a week, spending four to five hours covering as wide a swathe of the rural backroads as they can.

From day one they were encouraged to stop and chat with the folk they saw fencing, baling or herding.

"Let them know who they were and what they were doing out there. The responses we've had back have been really good," Mrs Ibbotson said.

Mr Gimblett said the patrols had also called in a couple of vehicles they asked to be checked out and he believed the patrols were having an effect.

"They are being seen."

The devotion of the volunteers was made very evident recently when there was a funeral taking place in Napier which Mr Gimblett and Mrs Ibbotson recognised would draw many folk from one of the outlying country areas. They called for volunteers to man several cars which they wanted to put up there on patrol, as a precaution against any burglars who may have realised many locals would be away for several hours.

"We had 15 people who gave up their afternoon to do something for that community ... and we had to turn many patrollers away. It was terrific to see," Mrs Ibbotson said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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