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Wellington: Police tackle inner city violence

Police tackle inner city violence

Wellington Police are launching a special operation after a sudden spike in violent crime early this year in the inner city.

"Fights fuelled by alcohol, assaults and street robberies are unacceptable," says Inspector Marty Grenfell, Wellington Area Commander. "People should be able to enjoy themselves in safety while in the city and we're out to make sure that happens."

The response is prompted after 126 violent offences were recorded in what is traditionally a quiet January, and reverses the downward trend experienced in the previous months.

Inspector Grenfell says most of the offending happened on Friday and Saturday nights and coincided with times of high foot traffic when people walked through busy areas.

Starting tonight a high visibility operation drawing on general duties officers, the CIB, road policing group and other specialist teams including Strategic Response Group, the new Liquor Policing Unit and Youth Aid officers will focus on the inner city.

Assisted by Wellington City Council's Walkwise staff, police are taking a special interest in the Manners and Cuba Malls, Courtenay Place, Taranaki, Vivian and Ghuznee Streets area.

Police are concerned that the majority of offenders caught in January for serious assaults and street robberies were young men under 25. Their victims were predominantly male ranging from teens through to the 30-years age group.

"We've had people intimidated, bashed, given black eyes and broken jaws all for cash, cellphones, clothing and other small electronic items," Inspector Grenfell says. "These are brazen attacks, often unprovoked and are happening in busy areas in front of many people.

"It's clear too that many of the offenders and victims of violence are not people coming into the city from the Hutt Valley, Porirua or Kapiti. They live in the city or suburbs."

He says the police operation will run for ten weeks and will be closely monitored during that time. "We'll be extremely disappointed if we don't see a change in offending within this period."

Police are especially concerned at the number of young people on the streets after 3am. Many are affected by alcohol and vulnerable to older groups of youths.

"I'm quite sure that many parents have no idea where their teens are in the early hours until sometimes it is too late," Inspector Grenfell says.

Part of the police approach includes taking 'be safe' messages into colleges.

"Wellington is a great city to be and we want people to enjoy the nightlife and entertainment areas," Inspector Grenfell says. "People have worked hard with strategies like alcohol bans to create a safe environment.

"Our hope is that January's spike in offending is a blip and that our focus in the next few weeks will see violent crime suppressed."

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