Police Community Hub takes to the streets of Hamilton
By: Gurbir Singh
Waikato Police has acquired another pro-active tool – a new mobile policing van to be more visible and accessible to the community. ‘Police Community Hub’ as the new mobile police base vehicle is referred to, has already taken to the streets of Hamilton.
This is one big step for the Waikato Police as it gives them now the ability to directly engage face-to-face with communities, especially after the closure of local community police stations.
Public will have an opportunity to meet and interact with police officials and will even get tips on keeping their property safe.
Speaking to NewsViews, Senior Constable Hamilton Prevention, Craig Berquist says, “The primary objective of this Community Hub vehicle is to give police the ability to get out into our communities to engage with those communities and strengthen trust and confidence, whilst reducing crime and victimisation in those areas.”
Labour List MP based in Hamilton, Jamie Strange is pleased with the introduction of this community police van and commended the work of Waikato Police.
When approached for comments, Strange told NewsViews: “I would like to thank Waikato Police for the excellent work they do. This community vehicle will complement that work, enabling greater community response. Police continue to serve our communities in a professional and responsive manner, which is appreciated by all those living in the Waikato region.”
The Hamilton East National MP, David Bennett has also welcomed this initiative of Waikato Police.
In his statement to NewsViews, Bennett says: “We welcome the mobile police clinic initiative. It is an attempt to be more visible in the community and to service areas of interest. In these ways it is good initiative…”
The National MP, however, expressed his disappointment at the Government not delivering its promise of re-opening the community police stations.
“But it (Police Community Hub) is not a substitute for community policing centers. These were promised by the current Government but not delivered and this is disappointing,” Bennett adds.
This custom-built, blue Mercedes 519 Sprinter is a first in Waikato region and will complement police resources throughout the district. The introduction of this fully-equipped mobile van is also expected to boost crime prevention education by participation in community events.
“The vehicle has an office space (and) will have wifi access for staff to conduct police work while in the community. There is also a 65 inch TV on the outside of the vehicle which gives us the ability to play Police promotional material, photos and crime prevention advice. The vehicle is self-contained with its own power source, toilet, and sink, so we can pretty much turn up anywhere and be fully functional,” says Berquist who is passionate about maintaining community connections and crime prevention.
Senior Constable Berquist, who has been closely associated with the local community for nearly two decades and is an avid supporter of Neighbourhood Support groups, is very enthusiastic.
“We want the public to be able to come and talk with us while we are in their communities with the Community Hub Vehicle, so if you see us in a Community near you – please pop in and say ‘hello’ and check out our new vehicle. While there we are able to assist and discuss crime prevention in your homes and neighbourhoods, and can assist you set up Neighbourhood Support Groups in your streets”, he adds.
Neighbourhood Support groups are set up with the help of Neighbourhood Support Hamilton that has over 11,000 active members. This not-for-profit community organisation works closely in partnership with Hamilton Police to “make our community a safer and more caring place to live”.
The hub vehicle will be parked at different locations in the city and travel around the region based upon the community events booked.
Public will have the opportunity to view this police hub at the forthcoming Pukete/St Andrews community crime prevention talk on Tuesday, 10 December at 7 pm.
As the Community Hub vehicle is a Waikato Police resource, “we are able to utilise it at some of our rural events as well,” says Berquist.
Government is reportedly trialing the mobile police bases as a new form of community policing after the community police stations were closed. Similar mobile vans have already been introduced in several cities of the country. Police in Upper Hutt was the first to trial it in Sept 2015.
After a crime surge in the north-east of Hamilton city earlier this year, residents have been demanding the reopening of the Flagstaff Community Police Station (https://www.newsviews.co.nz/casson-submits-petition-to-reopen-flagstaff-police-station/) .
In September, nearly a thousand local residents signed and submitted a petition to the Parliament through National MP, David Bennett urging the Police to re-open it.
In a local crime prevention community meeting in December last year, the Police defended the move to use mobile police bases as “we can’t keep doing the same thing and hoping for the same results, we have to try new things”.
This new Police Community Hub might as well be the answer.