Crime down with guardians patrolling city

By Matthew Martin

Rotorua's City Safe Guardians have helped reduce crime in the central city after just two months on the job, a new report says.

Rotorua District Council community safety projects officer Amy Duckett's report to the council's customer services committee comes ahead of budget meetings next week. She said the report was a snapshot of the work the guardians had been doing. A full report would be completed at the end of this year's trial project.

The City Safe Guardians were established after businesses signed a petition asking the council to part-fund the project, saying they were sick of anti-social behaviour, crime and intimidation on the city's streets.

Councillors decided to put $100,000 into last year's budget to part-fund the project. The Ministry of Justice also contributed $57,000.

Rotorua police statistics show reported crime in the central business district dropped from 164 incidents in December 2010 to 122 in December 2011 and from 142 incidents reported in January 2011 to 114 in January 2012.

Mrs Duckett said staff had interviewed 113 businesses in downtown Rotorua, 82 per cent of respondents saying they thought the project was having a positive impact on perceptions of safety in the city. The guardians had reported 34 incidents of suspicious activity to police, several leading to arrests, and the team had visited and given information to more than 400 businesses.

"The team has supplied information to members of the public on over 1400 occasions, assisting with directions, information about shops, accommodation, restaurants, bars, cafes and parking," she said in her report.

She said some areas of improvement had been suggested, including more strategic patrols to ensure all businesses were visited regularly, a change to their hours of work to ensure the most "bang for our buck" and the monitoring of closed-circuit TV cameras.

Mrs Duckett said comments from businesses had been overwhelmingly positive. "[They] make staff feel reassured there are people like City Safe Guardians around if trouble is around ... They have been vigilant on the streets ... We did not have as much shoplifting as last year," were some of the positive reactions. Rotorua police had also said the guardians had helped catch criminals.

"Last week I gave them details of a recidivist offender who is currently on bail. As part of the conditions of bail he is not allowed in the CBD. I have received a phone call today from [name removed for privacy] who has identified this person in town. The offender was located and arrested because of this," an officer said.

Another officer reported the guardians had impressed tourists with their great work.

"On Wednesday the 18th of January we received a call that some tourists had been robbed. On arrival, the guardians had four juvenile offenders sitting on a wall waiting for our arrival. One of them had gone up to a group of tourists and snatched a handbag then all four had run off."

The guardians found the handbag and police had charged three suspects, formally warning a fourth.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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