A few weeks ago I attended a public meeting in Rototuna that had been called to consider community concern about a number of burglaries and other crimes that had been committed in the area.
The meeting started with an impressive presentation about the voluntary work of Community Patrols New Zealand (CPNZ) in that area and some other parts of the city. I’m sure I was not the only one present who was unaware of the fine service of these dedicated men and women who sacrifice family time and sleep in order to help patrol our communities.
Formed in 2001, CPNZ is a national charitable organisation made up of approximately 5000 volunteers and over 150 patrols nationwide.
Volunteers offer their time to patrol their local streets, acting as eyes and ears to assist the Police and other agencies to build safer communities.
Ryan Whittaker is a dedicated and inspiring member of the North Hamilton Community Patrol, and he is also part of the National Training Team that organises the District Roadshows that travel New Zealand to promote CPNZ. He is conspicuous for being considerably younger than most of the other volunteers in his area!
“We all know Police do a fantastic job but they cannot be everywhere. That's where CPNZ volunteers can step in and help keep an eye on things and report matters which may be of concern,” says Ryan.
In order to help spread awareness of the work CPNZ does in Hamilton’s suburbs, and to encourage more potential volunteers to offer their services, I invited Ryan to present on the topic at my monthly forum at Cafe Agora in April. Again, Ryan made an excellent impression and I am hoping that his efforts that day, as well as this article, may prompt more of my constituents to boost their numbers.
There are three affiliated patrols in Hamilton. The North Hamilton Community Patrol was formed in 2002, while the other two groups, West Hamilton Night Owls and Kiwiwatch Community Patrol, have been operating since the mid-1990s.
Although Community Patrols are separate from the Police, CPNZ works very closely with them and team members are able to communicate quickly with them when the need arises.
Anyone can be a CPNZ volunteer after passing a police vetting check. Upon signing up, there is a three month probationary period during which the volunteer is an observer on patrols, and trained in tasks undertaken on patrol.
Once trained, patrollers are put into pairs and patrol the streets of their community in a high visibility, prevention role. Volunteers may be allocated tasks by Police or areas of the community where there is a need for extra eyes and ears.
“Local knowledge and intel go into constructing a Patrol Plan to offer the best possible use of our resource,” says Ryan. “Regular training sessions are held within the patrol group and opportunities to upskill are also on offer at the District Roadshows which visit the region annually.”
Volunteers are asked to commit to one or two Patrols per month, which usually last a minimum of four hours.
Statistics for the North Hamilton Community Patrol indicate that CPNZ are making a significant difference within our communities in New Zealand. In the first quarter of this year they have attended 150 vehicle-related incidents, five people-disorder incidents, 38 special-service incidents, and travelled 2807 kilometres.
“Recently, a patrol had another vehicle overtake them in a dangerous manner. They followed the vehicle and called in the registration to Police who informed them the car was stolen. The patrol followed the vehicle to the outskirts of Hamilton, updating Police with location as they went,” reports Ryan.
“A Police response ensued with multiple Police units converging and consequently arresting the driver and occupants of the vehicle, and the vehicle was returned to its rightful owner.”
If becoming a Community Patrol volunteer is something you’d like to find out more about, visit the website www.cpnz.org.nz and click the 'Contact Us' button to get in touch.
“It all costs money and it's an ongoing issue to raise funds to keep us on the road,” says Ryan. “If you're unable to offer time to patrol and would like to make a donation to your local Community Patrol group, please contact me: email@example.com.”
“As Sir Robert Peel, who is regarded as the Father of Modern Day Policing once said: The police are the public and the public are the police.”