New Whanganui Police area commander Nigel Allan's focus is on building partnerships and solutions that work for communities.

Inspector Allan was named last week as the successful candidate for the long-vacant position. Various staff, including Inspector Allan, have relieved as area commander since April 2016.

"Having had the opportunity to relieve in the role prior to starting has been an advantage because I've learned a lot around the way this area works," Inspector Allan said.

"Across the whole Whanganui area, a real strength is the staff we have. They are really engaged in their community and that comes through in their policing. A big reward of working in smaller stations is the community engagement."

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Community is important to Inspector Allan who has spent the majority of his 25-year police career in smaller locations. After sole charge positions and working as a sergeant in Dannevirke, he spent 10 years as officer in charge of Feilding. Before taking on the relieving area commander role in December, he worked for seven months at Police national headquarters in Wellington.

Looking to the future, Inspector Allan says there are good opportunities for the organisation.

"We've recently had confirmation of another five positions, based in Whanganui, that will build capacity for responses to family harm. Family harm is a massive issue for us; not just in Whanganui, it's one of the biggest issues facing New Zealand. In the last fiscal year we had 2400 family harm incidents in Whanganui but we know that only around 20 percent of incidents are reported to police.

"Whanganui is no better or worse than anywhere else. We have good structures in place for family harm responses and good connections with community organisations working in family harm.

"In the next six months a big piece of work will be working with our community and building solutions that work for this community. It's very early days but we already have strong relationships with the community and iwi. We now need to build strong partnerships and I see an opportunity to work closer with our community partners."

Changes are also on the way for the Rangitikei part of the area, with a 24/7 police presence to be introduced in the 2018/19 year.

"At present there is a 24/7 service but it requires an on-call Marton staff member, or staff from Whanganui, to respond. The new service will mean staff will be deployed in the Rangitikei 24/7. It's about us ensuring we are providing the best possible service for the community that we can."

With crime reduction by 2021 a national target for police, Inspector Allan said the recent spate of dairy robberies in Whanganui are part of a national trend and not peculiar to Whanganui.

"As well as last weekend's dairy robberies, it was a really concerning trend back in April/May for us and part of the challenge is knowing what are the drivers of that. We recognise the risk to small business owners and the community and we have been working with owners of high risk businesses like dairies and service stations on improving security.

"We have had really good success with apprehending offenders for the vast majority of those robbery offences. That doesn't change the trauma for the victims but it is a huge part of holding people to account and stopping it from happening. The best crime is one we prevent from happening rather than one we solve."

While the huge Whanganui policing area, which includes Rangitikei and Ruapehu, presents differing needs and issues for its various communities, Inspector Allan welcomes the challenge: "The area policing style really resonates with me."