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Community protectors on a mission

Updated: Apr 15, 2021

From left, Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support chairwoman Gay Sykes, committee member Bev Moxon, and Howick police community services supervisor, sergeant Scott Baker. Times Photo: Wayne Martin

An east Auckland crime-prevention group is back on its feet and looking to the future six months after fears were raised it may be shut down.

Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support issued a public call for new committee members in October last year when its then-chairperson Janelle Johnson announced she was stepping down.

Johnson said at the time she was concerned the group, which was founded in 1987, may stop operating if she couldn’t find someone to replace her.

That call was answered by the group’s new chairperson, Northpark resident Gay Sykes.

“I believe in it and I didn’t want to see it fold,” Sykes told the Times.

The group now has nine committee members, one of whom speaks Mandarin Chinese and another Cantonese.

Sykes says she volunteered to serve as chairperson out of a desire to help make the local community “the safest place it can be”.

One of her goals is to have a co-ordinator in every street in the group’s patch, which covers much of east Auckland.

“Neighbours need to know each other and what’s going on in their street,” she says.

“If there’s a co-ordinator in every street then if anything is happening they’ll know about it and for them to then contact their neighbours.

“It’s not being a nosey neighbour, but just being aware if something’s going on.”

Sykes says the co-ordinator’s main task is to compile the names and contact details of people in the street, or a group of 20-25 homes depending on the street’s length, so they can tell their neighbours about any suspicious activity or crime.

The role can be filled by an individual or two people.

Sykes is particularly keen to hear from people who speak several languages and are keen to get involved.

Howick police community services supervisor, sergeant Scott Baker, says police have been in partnership with the group for “decades”.

“From our perspective it’s a win-win.

“It’s a win for police and for residents who get to know more of their neighbours.

“That may spark some friendships and they look out for each other and their property.

“We can’t be everywhere at once and having those eyes and ears out there looking for suspicious activity is a good thing.”

Baker says police are keen to help local Neighbourhood Support groups and provide them with crime-prevention training.

Meetings can be held in a resident’s home, on their front lawn, or in a local park, he says.

“We’re happy to attend and support it as best we can.

“It doubles not just as a crime-prevention tool but also people looking after each other.

“They may find their neighbour is lonely and needs a visit every now and then, or a little bit of support or help, or some baking. It’s a positive community thing.”

People interested in becoming street co-ordinators for Howick/Botany Neighbourhood Support can phone or text 027 271 2494 or email

The group’s annual general meeting is at 7.30pm on Wednesday, April 14, at Willowbank School, 56 Middlefield Drive, Dannemora. It’s open to the public and all are welcome.

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