Kaikohe goes online to beat town's crims

By Peter de Graaf


Kaikohe residents are reclaiming their town from thieves and taggers by harnessing the power of social media.

A Facebook page aiming to deter vandalism and other crime in the Mid North town - and to gather information to pass on to police - has attracted 2420 members in less than two weeks.

The entire population of Kaikohe, according to the 2006 Census, is just 4100.

Information from the group, Kaikohe Community Watch, has already sparked what police are calling ''three significant enquiries''. Arrests are thought to be imminent.

The Facebook group was set up on July 3 by businessman Tony Taylor, who is also the driving force behind Kaikohe's community patrol. He started the page because most people had had a ''total gutsful'' of tagging, vandalism and disrespect.

The town had a better chance of attracting employment if it could be made a safe place to live, he added.

Within the first 48 hours group members had named all the taggers and most of the burglars whose photos had been posted, and had helped to find a lost girl.

Anyone in the group can post photos, CCTV footage or information. Others then put names to the images, passing on information, anonymously if required, by private message or an 0800 number. Any useful information is then passed to the authorities.

As well as identifying taggers and thieves, the page has been used to find the owners of stray dogs and get word out about stolen cars and missing people. One crystal-clear CCTV video showed two men leisurely rifling through a car while sucking on a home-made bong; a clear series of stills shows two young women and a cross-dressing man emptying out a shed.

Kaikohe police relieving Senior Sergeant Glenn Taplin praised the initiative, saying information from the group had led to three significant enquiries. The Facebook page gave police a good feel of what was happening in town, and what the community thought about it.

''It gives the community some ownership, by putting information they know onto a public forum. It shows there's some real heart in the Kaikohe community,'' Mr Taplin said.

Many comments on the page welcome the new group.

Derrinjah Rewiri said: ''Thanks to these sort of pages we are now gonna be able too start slowly but surely taking our community back ...  We gotta start somewhere & i dont know about anything else but this too me is a start.''

Karena Nikora said it was the best thing she had seen on Facebook. ''It saddens me to see what is actually happening in our community. These are the type of things that our community needs to know and see, so we can work together and start trying to find positive solutions to the problems that are so real in our community.''

To join the group go to www.facebook.com and search for 'Kaikohe Community Watch'.

- Northern Advocate

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