Bert Lincoln often stays out late and drives slowly past houses, his eyes scouring the streets.

One night a young man freezes in front of him, caught in the car's yellow headlights, not far away is a freshly graffitied fence.

A woman appears. She speaks with Mr Lincoln, then sternly with her son about never desecrating people's property again.

It is an anecdote Mr Lincoln likes to refer to when he explains the positive results that come from Flaxmere Community Patrol.


Mr Lincoln has been prowling the streets by night and preventing incidents like graffiti for 10 years.

Having been co-ordinator for its duration, he beams as he explains how the patrol has grown from strength to strength.

Once what was just a few people who got together and stuck magnetised patrol signs to the sides of their own cars is now a fleet of 38 people who drive a company car.

He has lived in Flaxmere for 45 years, one of his neighbours has lived there six months longer, the other six months less.

His children all grew up in the area, attended the schools and have gone on to land high-powered jobs. All of them are proud to call Flaxmere their home. "The community has been good to us," Mr Lincoln says.

His idea of thanking the community for those fond memories is to give back to them by helping to keep the streets safe.

Most nights, there is nothing to write on the job sheet, he says, because it is not the bad place many people think it is. But he agrees some negative things do happen, as in most places throughout the country, that taint its reputation.

"There's always those one or two people who ruin it for others."

Andrew Gregory, who is police liaison officer for all Hastings Community Patrol New Zealand groups, hails Flaxmere Community Patrol as the "eyes and ears" for police.

Mr Gregory has worked with the Flaxmere community since March 2008. He took up his post as liaison officer in 2012 and had worked with the management team and committee to ensure the group continued to run smoothly.

Mr Gregory said Mr Lincoln had been the co-ordinator for as long as he could remember and dubbed him a huge asset to the group. "Overall the group has a great history and works very closely alongside local police as well as the community to keep Flaxmere suburb as crime-free and safe as possible."

On any night the patrol takes to the streets they provide police with valuable information to assist them.

Sharing the same base of the Flaxmere police station, patrollers also help to watch over equipment and vehicles while police are attending serious incidents.

He said many businesses and members of the public had acknowledged the patrol for their voluntary work in the area.

"The overall co-operation between the group and police is outstanding."

When the patrol started Mr Lincoln was tasked with visiting the schools to inform the kids who the community patrol was.

The strategy was to come in at the school level and continue teaching the younger generations.

It was during one of these school visits that Mr Lincoln realised the value of the patrol. The hand of a young boy shot up. "I've seen you before," the boy told him. "I said, 'You won't have seen me, you would have been tucked up in bed'."

But the boy recalled the colour of Mr Lincoln's car and sure enough the boy had chosen to climb back into that window he was jumping out of, in the early hours of the morning, when he saw the car driving past.

"It really opened my eyes, because when my kids went to bed I knew where they were. But it is another world out there."

A 75-year-old woman has told Mr Lincoln previously that she can sleep soundly at night thanks to the patrols.

While he delights in being about giving back to the community and keeping people safe, the real highlight is the camaraderie, he says. In the patrol and community, "I like seeing people who love Flaxmere just as much as I do."

But the main aim is to work themselves out of a job. "It frustrates me that Flaxmere gets such a bad reputation."

Working as an architect by day, Mr Lincoln says he can see a turning point at some time in the future.

Hastings District councillor Henare O'Keefe, who looks after the Flaxmere ward, said over the years the Flaxmere Community Patrol had engendered a feeling of "safety, wellbeing and reassurance" in Flaxmere.

"This a group of people who selflessly patrol the streets of our beloved suburb, all hours of the day and night."

He said their duty and concern for the safety of their fellow "Flaxmerians" was what drove them. "There's no doubt their mere presence has helped."

The patrol evolved from a group of part-timers to one with a "highly professional attitude and approach", he said.

He said it spoke volumes that those who originally signed on to volunteer their time and effort still remained with the patrol.

Despite the amount of media attention and "at times exaggerated anomalies" Flaxmere had drawn, Mr O'Keefe said it was a tight knit community. He said residents had taken ownership of some of the issues and they now knew solutions did not lie with the government but instead with themselves.

"These are a people who possess little in the way of material wealth, but are rich of heart.

"They are real, what you see is what you get."