Crime plummets after pie cart blaze

By Lynda van Kempen

Jenny Simmons and Neil Cameron, of Alexandra, are now the owners of the pie cart. Photo / Sarah Marquet
Jenny Simmons and Neil Cameron, of Alexandra, are now the owners of the pie cart. Photo / Sarah Marquet

A community board has said "no thanks" to a second helping from the Alexandra Pie Cart after it was blamed for attracting a bad crowd.

Police said reports of wilful damage in the central business district had declined by 62 per cent and disorder incidents in the town centre had decreased by 66 per cent in the year since the pie cart ceased trading after going up in flames.

At a meeting yesterday, Vincent Community Board members voted 4-3 to decline an application by Alexandra couple Jenny Simmons and Neil Cameron, who wanted to operate the rebuilt pie cart from its Centennial Ave site.

The kerbside diner had operated in Alexandra for 64 years, the past 16 years under the ownership of Trevor Lyons and Lynne Giles. An electrical fault caused a fire which gutted the pie cart in May last year and the insurance payout was not enough for the couple to rebuild their business. They cancelled their licence to occupy the site and the pie cart shell was sold to Ms Simmons and Mr Cameron.

"The closing of the pie cart has directly impacted on my criminal law practice," board member and lawyer Tim Cadogan told the meeting.

In his seven years' experience as a criminal lawyer, there was "infrequently a court day where the pie cart did not get mentioned in dispatches."

"The pie cart has been described as an icon but it's an anachronism - a hangover from six o'clock closing days. There's enough evidence in front of us now ... I can't support it," board member Martin McPherson said.

With the drop in petty crime and vandalism, the board had to draw the conclusion the pie cart was "the light which has attracted those bad moths and now those bad moths have gone elsewhere," he said.

Central Otago police sub-area supervisor Senior Sergeant Ian Kerrisk outlined the drop in wilful damage and disorder in the town centre since the pie cart ceased operating. He said the pie cart had "acted as a beacon" and became a gathering point for people on their way home from hotels.

Security guard Ainsley Armishaw, of Cougar Security, which patrols town facilities at night on behalf of Armourguard, wrote to the board objecting to the pie cart being revived.

She had worked for six years as a security guard in the town and noticed a "huge decrease" in vandalism, graffiti and rubbish in the town centre since the pie cart stopped trading.

After the meeting, Mr Cameron and Ms Simmons said they were surprised and disappointed at the decision, but planned to look at other location - Cromwell, Queenstown or Wanaka.

- Otago Daily Times

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