Police are promising a heavier presence at a busy Mount Maunganui bus interchange after a bus driver and a local man were attacked by youths in separate incidents.
But a regional leader says the police response "doesn't cut the mustard" — a local resident says everyone in the neighbourhood is worried and some are talking about "scary" vigilante action.
On Saturday, a Bayfair Shopping Centre worker out for a walk during a break was allegedly assaulted by a group of youths near the Farm St interchange just after 3pm.
He suffered a significant injury to his eye, police said.
A youth has been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. He is due to appear in the Tauranga Youth Court today.
On Thursday, a bus driver was left "emotionally distraught" after youths forced their way on board, smashed the rearview mirror and racially abused him, according to his union.
It followed a spate of incidents involving groups of youths mainly at the Willow St bus stop in recent weeks.
The incidents include bus drivers being racially abused and threatened, street brawls, vandalism and assaults on passersbys - prompting bus drivers to boycott three stops if youths recognised as troublemakers were present.
Western Bay of Plenty police area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton said officers were speaking with the victim and collecting CCTV footage.
"There's a lot of work being done by a number of different partners with a number of challenges.
"... While there has been some change [improvement] in behaviour in Willow St, we are not seeing the same in Farm St. We need to put in a significant effort there."
This would mean a much heavier police presence in the area, in addition to increased security patrols.
Paxton said the group of youths were a reasonably small number "causing disproportionate harm to the community".
"There is a core group that we are aware of causing concern. Some we've interacted with previously."
He said police had to follow their process.
"If they are under 14, there could be a different procedure for them compared to those between 14 and 18, youth, and over 18 is different again."
Police previously made arrests in relation to bad behaviour at Willow St, including a youth who had a homemade Taser and another who had a knife. Other responses from police have involved talking and engaging with youth.
"I don't necessarily see it as a one-size-fits-all [approach]," Paxton said. He said the multitude of issues needed a collective effort to effect change.
"The question I have is: where is the supervision of these youths? Where is the parental guidance?
"Some of these youths are very vulnerable."
Paxton referred to girls sitting at a bus stop with older male youths drinking alcohol.
"We know there's disorder there. We know there are issues with substance abuse. That's part of the challenge. For some, it's about returning them home to the right environment."
He warned against vigilante action: "We have to remain within the parameters given. If people step outside of that, there will be repercussions."
He encouraged people to call 111 the moment they saw youths congregating at bus stops "before things escalate".
"The safety of our community is a priority."
Last week, Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said he feared the issue would not be taken seriously until someone was seriously hurt.
He said it gave him no pleasure to learn of Saturday's assault.
"I'm really frustrated. I don't subscribe to the view of why [police] can't do things. Don't give me excuses. While I get that these kids range from 12 to 20, and there are different processes in terms of dealing with them, just get on with it," he said.
"I appreciate police have guidelines ... from Wellington but the softly, softly approach is not cutting the mustard."
Leeder said the offending would continue unless clear boundaries were set and enforced.
"The community expectation around enforcement is higher than what is being delivered ... a stand has to be taken," he said.
On Farm St yesterday, residents said they felt unsafe, with one man saying he knew of locals planning to take matters "into their own hands".
"That's really scary, right? What if people start bringing weapons?"
The man, who would not be named for safety reasons, said: "Everyone's really worried."
Residents did not want the bus interchange when it was established in 2019, he said.
"It's just brought the worst of everything into our neighbourhood," he said.
The man said residents nearest the stops had built large fences "to try and block the stuff out".
"It has ended up [with] everyone turning their back on the street, which is becoming more and more unloved and not a looked-after space."
Another resident said she felt unsafe, "especially with gang people sitting, waiting on the seats".
Others have said they would consider alternative modes of transport.
Tauranga City Council commission chairwoman Anne Tolley said the recent behaviour at Farm St was "not acceptable".
"We'll certainly be encouraging the police to take these incidents seriously and take steps to ensure people are safe in this area."
The city council was looking for alternative sites to Farm St for the bus interchange but there was "no simple solution". This would be discussed by the council soon, and it would continue talking to residents.
She understood the regional council was making changes that would mean fewer buses would stop there and hoped that would ease some issues residents had experienced.
In response to criticism raised, Paxton said police understood the community's concern and they, like the community, wanted safe and accessible areas for everyone.
"As police, we are taking a two-fold approach. This includes our staff working on identifying the youths involved in the recent serious incidents in the Farm St area, and then a wider examination into what we can do with partners and stakeholders, including the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, to come up with solutions that address the reasons why these incidents are happening."
The issue of large groups of young people coming into the Willow St and Farm St bus stops was a key factor.
Police are expected to meet with the regional council and other organisations this week about the issue.