Police numbers 'decimated'

By Sophie Price

5 comments
Hawke's Bay needs more police officers.
Hawke's Bay needs more police officers.

A Hastings councillor has issued a "scream for help", saying police numbers need bolstering in Flaxmere.

Henare O'Keefe is asking the council to fund more City Assist workers to help improve safety in the troubled suburb. He claimed police numbers had been decimated in the suburb.

"They have decimated our police numbers, decimated them," he said.

He likened Flaxmere to, at times, a dysfunctional child and that it was like pushing "the proverbial uphill with a pointed stick". He said that this request was not a cry for help but rather a "scream for help".

At a council meeting this week, he spoke in support of an extra $180,000 to go towards the City Assist programme in the proposed annual plan budget to increase the programme ambassadors' presence in the region.

The City Assist ambassadors provide an authoritative presence and step in to guide people when they display unsociable behaviour within the CBD, but they are also there to provide assistance to tourists and other visitors.

"And I know the City Assists aren't the silver bullet, they aren't the police, they are not that. This is a part of the solution."

A New Zealand Police spokeswoman countered Mr O'Keefe's words saying "there are certainly still police" in Flaxmere. There are about six in the neighbourhood policing team who were based there. The community constable role had been transferred into the team, in addition two new positions would be filled there soon. The station had not been open during the day for the past two years and if people wanted to talk to a police officer just call the station, she said.

At the meeting, councillor Sandra Hazlehurst said as the chairwoman of Safer Hastings she wanted "nothing more than for our people to feel safe", however, she was unsure if City Assist was the right vehicle to address the issue.

Council's chief executive, Ross McLeod, supported the "legitimate concern that police are pulling back". He said in regards to City Assist filling the police role, councillors have already said that is what they wanted them to do. "That horse has already bolted," he said. "By providing the City Assist service in the town centre you have actually already decided to step in and meet community aspirations around some of that anti-social behaviour that was occurring. So then the question becomes if that is a priority in Hastings that you put $300,000 towards what makes Flaxmere different?"

Mr O'Keefe said the suburb was "marinating in poverty". "Not only poverty of spirit, poverty of food, poverty of income, but poverty of benevolence, poverty of giving poverty of understanding poverty of empathy poverty of leadership, poverty of servanthood."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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