Crimefighters sceptical of figures

By Peter de Graaf

Tip Nikora
Tip Nikora

Kaikohe man Tip Nikora says the thieves who took his wife's car while she was volunteering for St John and a prized guitar from his home will never understand how much distress and hassle they have caused.

Mr Nikora, a musician and tour bus driver, said it was particularly unfair when his hometown was targeted, often by under-age offenders who faced few consequences.

"People don't have much here, and they get hammered," he said.

Number-crunching by NZ Herald data journalists has come up with a list of the worst places for burglaries in the 18 months to December 2015, with Kaikohe ranked second on 313 burglaries. Only the Auckland suburb of Mt Wellington fares worse with 466.

However, the town's police and civilian crimefighters are sceptical of the figures, saying crime in Kaikohe has dropped sharply over the past two years.

The rankings also have to be taken with a grain of salt because the figures are based on Census area units, each of which has a different population.

Some area units have high numbers of burglaries because they have large populations and vice versa.

Last October, Mr Nikora's wife Patsy had just finished a night shift as a St John volunteer when she realised her car had been stolen. She found it nearby with the driver's window smashed, wiring pulled out and door locks broken.

The offenders were unable to start it but took a video camera and other items from the boot.

"It was young fellas trying to take it for a joy ride," Mr Nikora said.

The car was so badly damaged it had to go back to the dealer in Whangarei for repairs, leaving the couple with one car for six weeks - a major inconvenience when they work in different towns.

Despite having insurance they were still left out of pocket, and five months later they are still dealing with paperwork.

The offenders, all teens, were sentenced to community service.

Also last year, a laptop and a guitar, made by a friend for Mr Nikora's 50th birthday, were taken from their home. That was especially upsetting because the friend had died a few months earlier so Mr Nikora lost not only a prized instrument but also a memento of its maker.

Many of Kaikohe's thefts were committed by youth, he said. They had little idea of the stress and inconvenience they caused, their parents seemed uninterested, and the courts could do little if the offenders were aged under 17.

Businessman Tony Taylor, whose Kaikohe Community Watch Facebook page became a model for crimefighting via social media after it was set up in 2013, rubbished the burglary rankings.

Three years ago crime was rife in the town but since then, thanks to police "pulling finger and making a real effort" plus initiatives like his Facebook page, it had dropped dramatically.

Kaikohe was now safer than most towns in the Far North and weekly crime figures backed that up, he said.

What remained was petty crime committed by youths the courts could not touch because they were under 17, but that was the same everywhere, he said.

Kaikohe police acting Senior Sergeant Dylan Robinson also doubted the figures gave an accurate or up-to-date picture of burglaries in the town.

"We've worked really hard over the past two years to reduce victims of all crime. There's been a huge reduction but we're not going to take our foot off the pedal."

Mr Robinson said the drop was due to the relationship police had developed with the local community, as well as initiatives such as Kaikohe Community Watch and Kaikohe Community Patrol.

- The third worst area units for burglaries are the university precinct in Hamilton and Kawerau in the Bay of Plenty (each with 312). Auckland suburbs fill out most of the top 30 places on the list. Northland area units with more than 100 burglaries are Kaikohe (313), Kaitaia West (184), Punaruku-Kiripaka in Whangarei (154), Kaitaia East (149), Karikari Peninsula (140), Whangarei Central (138), Kerikeri (125), Otangarei (124), Onerahi (114), Taipa Bay (112), Raumanga (111), Dargaville (111) and Kamo East (102). Not counting offshore islands and harbours, the unit area in Northland with the lowest number of burglaries was Kohukohu (3).

- Northern Advocate

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