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Community safety becoming a burning issue

Community safety becoming a burning issue

Manukau City Council is considering its response to growing concern about threats to community safety including crime, increasing vandalism and graffiti, and other problems such as public drunkenness, threatening dogs and illegal street racing.
Mayor Sir Barry Curtis says, “We are now looking at what we can do to turn the tide. It’s happening across the city - from Bucklands Beach and Highland Park to Otara and Manurewa. The real level of crime and anti-social behaviour is much higher than statistics show because much of it isn’t reported.

“For example, half of Maori and Pacific Island victims of crime do not report it to the police.

“Vandalism is definitely worsening. In one recent instance, furnishings inside the brand new Mangere East library were repeatedly slashed during the day, and graffiti sprayed on the outside of the building night after night.

“Community safety is not just a concern in Manukau, it’s right across the Auckland region and we a need a plan to deal with it.

“For Manukau City Council this is a major strategic change. It’s going to become a priority as important as improving our transport system or running libraries and swimming pools - a fundamental quality of life issue.”

Sir Barry says the message coming from the community is strong and clear, and has been voiced in public meetings held this month to discuss the issue.

The themes coming through in the meetings are calls for:

Tougher punishment for criminals Making police more visible by taking them out of their cars Faster processing of offenders by the court system ( such as using Night Courts) Using civilian staff to do paperwork, and not uniformed officers Crime prevention plans tailored for each part of the city and drawn up in consultation with each community.

The highest turnouts have been at the three Otara meetings (80 people) and the lowest turnout was at the two meetings in Howick (17 people) which is facing growing safety problems.

Sir Barry says, “People have had enough. They want to feel safe in their homes, and their streets to be safer and cleaner. They want to be free from the threat of burglary and car theft.

“They don’t want their city defaced by graffiti; they don’t like menacing behaviour and violence at their local beach, in parks, on the roads or neighbourhood streets.

“It is not going to be solved simply by putting more police on the beat. We do need more officers here in Manukau, and we’re going to get them shortly. But even if we had an officer on every corner that wouldn’t stop the problem. The situation we are facing is complex and will require a strategic, multi-pronged response.

“The Council is not directly responsible for law and order or for catching criminals. But it does have a responsibility to work together with other community organisations and stakeholders, such as the police, to try to work towards solutions. We are also an advocate for change. So that’s what we’ll be doing.

“For example, security cameras on streets are very effective in deterring crime, as we’ve found in Hunter’s Corner, Papatoetoe, so we may put them in elsewhere. We also took a stronger stand against graffiti recently by adopting a zero tolerance policy, and are putting a lot more money into erasing tagging.

“I believe we can use the eyes and ears of the community a lot more by encouraging people to report suspicious or illegal behaviour. We will also be revamping and strengthening Community Support groups and crime prevention organisations such as Safer Manukau.

Sir Barry says, “I am convinced we can make a difference, as happened in New York with its “broken windows” policy.

“Sadly, standards of behaviour in society have fallen. There is a widespread “I don’t care” attitude among so many young people, especially when fuelled by alcohol. If they feel they can get away with something, they will do it. We have to give a stronger message that their behaviour is not going to be tolerated.

“The situation’s been growing for years and attempts have been made to deal with the causes but, clearly, what’s been done until now has not worked.

“I also believe the “caring and sharing” approach to offenders and treating them with kid gloves, has failed. There needs to be strong and sobering consequences for vandalism and crime even if the offenders are very young. The public supports a tougher stance and I agree.”

The public meetings will continue until May 8. A full list of the dates is on the Council’s website http:// http://www.manukau.govt.nz. Anyone who missed the meetings, or cannot attend, can contribute by filling out and sending in the Crime Safety Questionnaire which is available in libraries and on the website http:// http://www.manukau.govt.nz/prevention.htm. Residents may also ring the Council’s call centre 2625104 to make a comment.

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