The organiser of a packed public meeting calling for more police in Paihia now plans to lobby the government for better resourcing of Northland's thin blue line.
Last week's meeting, which followed a petition calling for permanent staffing of the town's police station, drew an estimated 180 people, some listening via loudspeakers set up outside.
The station has not had its own staff since 2018, when Mid North police switched to a 24-hour roster. Officers now start their shifts at Kaikohe or Kerikeri.
Concerns about a lack of local police have been heightened by Covid-era changes in the town's population and a perceived surge of crime.
Meeting organiser Morgan Pollock said it would be irresponsible to invite tourists back post-Covid when the town wasn't safe for locals.
''We have no bus, no train, roads in disrepair, no banks, and now we have no police. We bring in a lot of revenue from tourism, but where is all that money going? It's not coming back here," she said.
No one had a quarrel with the work police did on the ground; it was the model they worked to. If better policing couldn't be achieved within current budgets, Paihia would insist the government provided sufficient funding.
Residents raised concerns about police response times, drug-dealing and speeding on Marsden Rd. One woman recounted how she had seen a man hit an eight-year-old child in the face in a car park. She had her own children with her, and was afraid to intervene, but when police arrived 40 minutes later the offender was long gone.
A Kings Rd couple said over the years they had spent $15,000 repairing shop windows broken by people fighting, but the culprits had invariably dispersed when police turned up.
Former police superintendent Denis Orme said without staff based full-time in Paihia the police had lost their best source of local knowledge. He said police resources should be allocated according to crime rates and demographics, and Northland wasn't getting its fair share.
Amanda McClelland said she wanted an officer who she knew and trusted based in Paihia.
''We don't have that at the moment, police aren't visible to us. There's a disconnect,'' she said.
Acting area commander Inspector Chris McLellan said before 24-hour policing was introduced in the Mid North, Paihia had its own sergeant and three constables, but after a certain time at night they were on call only.
''It didn't work, not for Kings Rd, and not for the Lighthouse before that,'' he said.
Under the current model police were always on duty in the Mid North, not sitting in the Kerikeri or Kaikohe stations but out on the roads, but they had to prioritise; if two incidents occurred around the same time they had to go to the more serious one first. In particular Northland police were called to ''an awfully high number'' of family harm incidents.
The current model was based around evidence and ''putting police in the right place at the right time'', he added.
While some speakers described the station as ''mothballed''- it is now open three days week for a two-month trial to gauge demand - it was still used by road policing units, as a training base and during big public events.
He disputed claims that the use of tourist accommodation as emergency housing for out-of-towners had led to a rise in crime. There had been no significant spike in crime that could be connected to emergency housing, although police were responding to calls about family harm that they had not received previously.
McLellan also defended police commitment to the town, saying ''prevention activities'' such as patrols, checkpoints and visits to licensed premises had increased 36 per cent between 2018 and 2020.
Responding to a question from business association chairman Charles Parker about what locals could do to help, McLellan said they could consider reinstating the town's community patrols, or a system like CitySafe, in Whangārei. He commended plans to expand the town's CCTV network, but said the best thing people could do was report crime by calling 105, or 111 if it was urgent.
Paihia resident Jackie Matthews also urged locals to report crime instead of ''just moaning on Facebook.'' Even if police couldn't attend, reports were added to official crime statistics, giving police a better picture of what was happening and boosting Paihia's cause for more policing.
The last word went to town caretaker Vern Witehira, who said there was ''too much whinging,'' and called on those at the meeting to show themselves in the town.
''Come for a walk with me, that's what we need in town, the community showing itself. All the riff-raff will know they're being watched," he said.