Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Papakura Community Crimewatch patrollers 'eyes and ears' for police

This week the Herald has investigated burglaries in the most in-depth series on the subject ever done in New Zealand. Over five days we have examined where burglaries happen, talked to victims, burglars and the police and find out how you can protect your home and business. In part five we looks at the solutions experts pose to reduce the crimes.

BURGLARY SERIES - OVERVIEW

Community patroller Glenn Torrens hasn't actually caught a burglar, but he volunteers his time to help the police to catch them.

He is one of 75 members, two-thirds of them retired, of Papakura Community Crimewatch Patrols. They aim to be the police's "eyes and ears".

"I'd thought about doing it after seeing articles in the local paper, but with the job I had I was unable to," said Mr Torrens, 58, a kitchen manufacturer.

"I changed jobs and had a bit more flexibility with time to be available at night."

In the five years since he's volunteered, he has been called "a few names" and once had a bottle thrown at his patrol car, but says "90 per cent of the people wave at you and say hi".

And he has made a difference.

"There was one incident recently in Takanini, in Princess St," he said.

"We came around the street and there was a guy walking along, and suddenly he hopped the fence almost right next to us.

"We were on the phone to northcomms [police] straight away. We kept circling the area and eventually he came out and they [police] grabbed him.

"He hadn't done anything that night but there was a warrant out for his arrest."

Don Hadfield, 79, spotted a 4WD vehicle backed up to a cash machine in the local shops.

There seemed to be no one in it, but it looked suspicious so he reported it to police.

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Then as he was about to leave, a head popped up in the vehicle - someone had been hiding under the seats which had been pushed down as far as they could go.

"I had seen a security guard around the shops earlier, so as well as ringing the police I went and got him.

"He got there straight away, but the vehicle had gone. That was one crime that was prevented."

Community patrols like Papakura's operate from Kaitaia to Invercargill.

National operations officer Dave Ross said they covered most parts of the country, although there are still gaps such as Glenfield, Takapuna and Devonport on Auckland's North Shore and Otahuhu and Otara in South Auckland.

The patrols rely on funding from philanthropic trusts, councils and corporate sponsors, but they work closely with the police.

The Papakura group's two patrol cars are based at the local police station and police often give them tasks such as patrolling parking areas at local events or finding the victim of a crime while the police chase the offender.

"The other night there was an accident," Mr Hadfield said. "We have flashing marker lights so we stayed there till the police came and relieved us, or sometimes we relieve the police so they can deal with more serious crime."

Mr Hadfield's wife, Dawn, 73, also joined the patrols after she was asked to take over as the group's administrator.

"We have about equal numbers of men and women," she said.

Her husband said: "We need as many volunteers as we can get."

- NZ Herald

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