Vandalism sees after-hours wifi canned

By melissa.nightingale@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

DETERRENT NEEDED: Vandalism, including graffiti, has increased in Raetihi this year and the free wifi may not help.
DETERRENT NEEDED: Vandalism, including graffiti, has increased in Raetihi this year and the free wifi may not help.

The free wifi at the Raetihi library is now being switched off at night because it may be contributing to vandalism in the area.

But the Raetihi Promotions Charitable Trust chairman believes the wifi should be extended along the street to stop young trouble-makers gathering in the one spot.

"You see them always congregating there late at night," Geoff Anderson said.

"Once they've done their surf on the net they get bored and look for something to do. The plan to extend the wifi along the whole street would be a help because it would mean that it's not just congregating in the one place, that would spread it through town."

Vandalism around Raetihi increased at the beginning of this year, and includes smashed windows at the community pool and council office, plants pulled out at the local domain, and graffiti.

Someone had also defecated on the back steps of the council office at one point.

On police recommendation, the Ruapehu District Council began switching off the wifi after-hours on April 20 in an attempt to reduce vandalism and "other anti-social behaviour".

"In addition to the vandalism, council staff in Raetihi have also had increased levels of abuse recently, which is of significant concern," Ruapehu District Council policy and planning group manager Pauline Welch said.

"The council is also looking into installing security cameras which have been very effective in Taumaranui and Ohakune at helping to curb these types of issues and in identifying offenders."

The free wifi has been offered for about three or four years but it is unclear why vandalism has only recently become a big issue, a council spokesman said.

He said the mayor told council members at a meeting recently it was believed gang members were coming up from Whanganui and trying to recruit young people "so that's adding to the issues".

Ms Welch said it was "unfortunate" the steps needed to be taken, because it affected the whole community as well as visitors and tourists.

"Ultimately this is a community issue and it will require a concerted whole of community response to resolve," she said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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