Paihia residents alarmed by what they say is a rise in crime during the Covid pandemic are calling for their mothballed police station to be reopened.
The station, on Williams Rd, is still used at times — during New Year's Eve celebrations for example — but hasn't been regularly staffed since 2018.
Resident Morgan Pollock is spearheading the campaign for a permanent police presence in Northland's top tourist town.
A petition she organised in January attracted about 1000 signatures and on April 1 she will hold a public meeting which a number of MPs have agreed to attend.
''I just got sick of all the crime in town. You can't even walk around the streets without being threatened. It's the Wild West here. Just about everyone I spoke to while I was doing the petition had a story to tell.''
Pollock said the town's population had increased during Covid because backpacker hostels had been converted to emergency accommodation.
While most new residents were families in genuine need the move had also brought in a criminal element.
Recent incidents included a home invasion, assaults on business owners, death threats to elderly residents, drugs being sold openly from homes, a kidnapping and extortion attempt at a Paihia bank, a ram raid at the Four Square, and a fatal stabbing at nearby Ōpua.
The standard 20-40 minute response time as police travelled from other areas such as Kaikohe or Kerikeri wasn't acceptable if someone was being bashed, she said.
Pollock said crime was affecting business with at least one club on Kings Rd considering closing due to ongoing fights.
She had closed her own taxi business because she was fed up with being threatened and customers running off without paying.
While the petition called for 24-hour policing in Paihia, Pollock said she'd be happy with any kind of police presence.
The mostly empty station contrasted with the 200 police officers based in the area during Waitangi commemorations.
''Everyone loved it. It was dead quiet. Nobody dared do anything,'' Pollock said.
One of the affected businesses is Bad Habits, a combined bar, delicatessen and off-licence in Paihia Lanes.
In the latest incident, about 1am on Monday, a window was smashed and bottles of gin were stolen.
Manager Praveer Kochar said the repair costs would ''easily'' top $1000.
The bar's owners also owned the Tipsy Oyster restaurant on Kings Rd.
Kochar said fights on the street almost every weekend meant families were afraid to go out for dinner and the restaurant had to hire two bouncers for security.
He said the police station should be staffed at least during business hours with street patrols at other times.
''If police were here 24-hours these people would have fear in their hearts and they wouldn't do these wrong things.''
Kochar said the person behind Monday's raid had been identified by CCTV footage.
Paihia's police station has not been regularly staffed since the Mid North switched to a 24/7 policing model in 2018.
In the new model, instead of two shifts a day with police on call during the early hours of the morning, some officers are always on duty. When not on the road they are based at Kaikohe or Kerikeri stations.
However, Denis Orme, a former police inspector who is now a local St John volunteer, said the ''flying squad'' approach to policing had failed Paihia.
It was strictly reactive and did not provide the sense of security — or deterrent to offenders — offered by a local police presence.
Out-of-area police also lacked the local knowledge needed to stop crime in the first place, he said.
Police have been asked to respond.
Police data shows officers responded to 2668 incidents in the Paihia area in the six months to the end of January 2021. The number in the same six-month period one year earlier, before Covid, was 2216.
■ The public meeting will be held at the Memorial Hall on Williams Rd from 5.30pm on April 1. Doors open at 4.30pm. So far National's police spokesman Simeon Brown and Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis have agreed to attend, along with community board representative Belinda Ward and a senior police representative