A perceived "Armageddon" of crime was laid bare by Tikipunga residents at a public hui attended by Northland community leaders.
More than 40 people – both local and from wider Whangārei - shared their fears that Tikipunga had become a bedlam of drugs, youth crime, gangs, broken families, and violence at the meeting held at Tikipunga High School on Sunday.
The hottest topic on the table at the event organised by Whangārei MP Emily Henderson was how these issues – amplified by social and mainstream media – had splintered Tikipunga's community spirit.
Henderson orchestrated the "community helping community" hui as a response to people's concerns crime had increased in the area.
"As an MP, I think I know what's bothering people but I need to know accurately and I need to know in detail and where the tensions are..."
Henderson said it was crucial to understand why things were happening so they knew what action points were needed.
She was especially driven to help find solutions for the area as Tikipunga had been her home from the age of 7.
A large contingency of community leaders were in attendance, that included Whangārei mayor Sheryl Mai and other district councillors; Northland police Whangārei area commander Inspector Marty Ruth and acting senior sergeant Christian Stainton, Tai Tokerau community adviser for Neighbourhood Support Hannah White; and Whangārei Youth Space community outreach co-ordinator Anahera Pickering.
Members of different community patrol organisations also joined in the conversation.
A member of the Whangārei Rangatahi patrols said their work had shown Tikipunga was one of three current hotspots for crime alongside Raumanga and Ōtangarei – with Kamo having calmed down in that regard.
A Tikipunga resident told leaders police cars passing his place at all times of the day and night were a common occurrence.
Henderson began the hui by asking the audience to indicate their anxiety levels with one being "everything is fine" and five the opposite. Most people indicated they were around three and under but said they found issues such as recent stabbings, aggravated robberies, and youth crime "worrying".
She said a lot of the issues raised were about "disconnection".
One man told the audience his workshop group believed "a lack of resources" within the household and from community and national groups, as well "feelings of exclusion from the community" had contributed to the appeal of crime.
Unemployment was also to blame, another attendee said.
Ruth said the perception of an "Armageddon" crime wave had been romanticised by social plus mainstream media and police data indicated the number of burglaries and robberies in the district had fallen.
He said police had become a lot more effective now they were working even more closely with key stakeholders – such as youth groups, parents, and other community groups.
Ruth acknowledged recent vehicle thefts linked to youth challenges to steal Mazda and Altezza cars and said it was a national problem but Northland police were making progress.
He said they had arrested a 16-year-old male who faced around 26 charges related to the problem.
A big boost to preventing crime had come with the 84 new police recruits assigned to Northland – the highest percentage of new recruits nationwide, Ruth said.
Those resources had been invested heavily into youth offending, organised crime, and methamphetamine harm.
Police were also taking a proactive approach with schools and had introduced a number of programmes to deter youth from offending.
Ruth said residents could help police by signing up to organisations such as Neighbourhood Support New Zealand, where you're encouraged to get to know four of your closest neighbours.
Mai said everyone played a part in creating an environment where people could "live and thrive in".
"It's all about working together, about finding solutions for our communities."