A popular "crime fighting" patrol has been forged by two Whangārei bouncers keen to hamper the waves of crime they say are rolling through the city.
Whangārei Rangatahi Patrols was the persistent idea of Tukaha Murray, 22, that finally came to fruition in April this year with the help of workmate Jason Apiata, 26.
"What prompted it was just seeing Facebook, and seeing all the crime going up and down, and seeing people getting worried about it," Murray said.
It followed the footsteps of Kaitaia born Murray's mother, who dedicated herself to assisting some of their hometown's most vulnerable people.
Murray first posted about their patrol on the Cop Stops – Whangārei Facebook page on May 17, and was left speechless by the instant and mammoth response he got.
"...I'm just letting you know that me and my brother are doing this just to help the community we don't get paid and we use our own vehicles to do patrols," Murray wrote.
"...all we're looking for is whangarei to be a place that you can walk around in the dark and not have to worrie about s*** so if you do have trouble please don't be afraid to let me know...[sic]."
Whangārei locals heaped 1.6k likes onto the post and 288 comments – many thanking them for taking up a protector's mantle.
A scroll through a number of Whangārei's community Facebook pages showed a volley of posts about cars freshly stolen, vehicles recently dumped, or smashed windows and ransacked cars.
"Hi all, just a heads up My car was parked up at my mother in Dinniss Ave, Kensington tonight, I stayed for maybe 30 minutes only to find that my car had been stolen in the mean time [sic]," one user posted on July 23.
"Yes absolutely it's getting well in truly out off hand that's bad have to do something [sic]," another commented.
But Acting Senior Sergeant Christian Stainton, Whangārei area prevention manager, said the online community's fear about a "massive spike in vehicle crime" wasn't backed up by police data.
"We've noticed that across a five-year trend it's not actually a spike ... but where we do find the perceptions are coming from is our social media."
"A lot of information which is out there is driven by social media. I think that the people who are the administrators of social media pages have got a responsibility as well to monitor the content that is going on those pages so it clearly reflects fact and not personal opinion."
Stainton previously told the Advocate Mazda Demios, Nissan Tiidas and Mitsubishi Lancers were top of the most-wanted list.
In the past six months Whangārei has been hit the hardest by vehicle crime – specifically the city centre, Kamo, Tikipunga, and Raumanga.
Murray, seeing this unfold online, decided to expand the use of his security licence and qualifications.
"We keep tabs on Facebook ... just to see where the most likely areas are that are going to get hit first."
"Then we've got members of the public that message us on Facebook. It comes in in dribs and drabs but then there are days where it comes in all at once."
The duo – donned in self-purchased stab proof vests – grab their radios, jump in one of their personal cars, and drive through hot spots looking for anything untoward.
"Depending on what time we start, we could be out from 8pm or 9pm to about 2am or 3am."
Murray said they responded to whatever incident was troubling locals.
"We had a concerned message on Facebook saying there were kids jumping on roofs and stuff down at the polytech."
The duo pulled up at NorthTec to a "bunch of kids" hurling gang slurs their way before taking off.
"We found them all bunched up on a grass area ... we told them who we were, what we were doing, and why we were doing it.
"Their reaction man, they loved us. They enjoyed what we were up to and they even asked when we were coming back."
It showed Murray how their patrol could reach young people who usually rebuffed law enforcement.
"As soon as they see the blue uniform, they're gonna run."
Murray believes the four months they've been patrolling has helped diminish the thefts and vehicle break-ins.
"It has been quiet now since it was a few months ago because, I don't know, these guys must be afraid we're gonna catch them."
It was a relief for the pair to see people more comfortable within their own neighbourhoods.
But there was still the odd group of youth scaring people with their behaviour.
"There was a group last week trying to stop a lady in a car in the middle of the road," Murray said.
"I keep referring people back to the police – police come first before us – but we always say if you want to call us do so and we can come over and have a look. The police are busy and can't always get there fast."
Murray said he had a strong understanding with traditional law enforcers that he needed to "avoid standing on police's feet".
"After our meeting with them, I knew as long as we weren't interfering with their investigations – if they were on site or not – then it was accepted by them."
But the official police word encouraged people away from vigilante efforts for their own safety.
Stainton acknowledged people wanted to help but said it should be done through official groups that receive proper training and tools to keep themselves and other safe.
"Our priority as police is to ensure the safety of the public, so we would strongly discourage any members of the public from taking matters into their own hands as this could put them in a potentially dangerous situation."
"Anyone who wants to get involved in helping keep the community safe and make a difference in their neighbourhood should contact their local Community Patrol or Neighbourhood Support group."
With this in mind, Murray is currently pulling funding together to transform their patrol into a legitimate business: Rangatahi Security.
"We're just going to provide the same sense of security ... my plans are not to slow down."