Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Community crimebusters need new blood

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Howick Police sergeant Brett Meale, left, and Janelle Johnson urge locals to get involved with the Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support group. Times photo Chris Harrowell

A highly valued community crime-prevention group may be forced to shut down if it can’t find new volunteers.

That’s a scenario the police hope doesn’t come to fruition.

East Auckland local Janelle Johnson has served as chairwoman of the Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support group for the past five years.

She’s standing down from the role at its annual general meeting on October 21.

Johnson is looking for locals willing to become committee members or to take over from her as chair and says if she can’t find someone to replace her, “it means we will have to dissolve it”.

Howick Police community services supervisor, sergeant Brett Meale, says that would be a negative for the local community.

“They help us get the message out there [about crime prevention],” Meale says of the group.

“They’re extra eyes and ears [for the police].

“That’s what we’re after — residents looking after their neighbours and letting us know about suspicious vehicles and people.

“We tell them what the current [crime] trends are so people can be a bit more vigilant.”

Neighbourhood Support is a nationwide community service focused on crime-prevention and responding to civil defence emergencies.

It works alongside police to help local residents improve safety in their own communities.

Residents who are involved get to know their neighbours and their contact details as a way to prevent crime and report suspicious activity among other locals and the police.

The Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support group was founded in 1987.

Johnson says its committee members are volunteers and do it out of a sense of service.

“It’s very rewarding when you volunteer and it gives you that bit of pride and confidence in yourself because you’re doing something for the community.

“You’re giving back. That’s why I got involved.”

Meale echoes that sentiment and says it’s important for local residents to feel invested in helping to keep themselves and their neighbours safe.

“A lot of people around here are pretty proud of their community, especially older people who have been around a long time.

“What was demonstrated during the Covid-19 lockdown is that neighbourhoods got together not to prevent crime but to support each other and that’s a great example of how it can work.

“They keep an eye on each other’s houses and know who should and shouldn’t be at home and take a bit of responsibility for others.

“Too many people are prepared to turn a blind eye and take no responsibility for their neighbour.

“As long as it’s not happening to them they don’t care. We’re saying you need to be the eyes and ears of your community.”

Johnson says committee members can put “as little or as much” time as they want into the role.

“You could do it in an hour a week easily,” she says.

People interested in serving on the group’s committee can email or phone 021 038 5221 and leave a message.

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