As the perception of increased criminal activity and diminishing policing grows in Feilding, so too does the desire of every day residents to step up and keep their communities safe.
Aly Thompson, the new manager of Neighbourhood Support Manawatū, says her organisation can provide an important role in keeping people connected, and vigilant.
Although police have a responsibility to protect people, “we also have a lot of responsibility and ability to protect each other. That's where Neighbourhood Support sits.”
The organisation receives crime statistics from police, but instead of the monthly data drops the Manawatū organisation used to do, Thompson wants the information to be more frequent, and specific to neighbourhoods, so people are more aware and responsive.
The frequency of information updates depends on funding, which has come mostly from Neighbourhood Support’s national agency, Manawatū District Council, police, and private donations.
“I want to empower people to act,” Thompson said. “Let’s say you see someone acting shady, looking uncomfortable. You don't report them because they're not actively committing a crime, but later you read that a crime took place in that area. That context makes you think, ‘I might know something about that.’
“People don't want to waste police time with little things, but little things could make a big impact on an intelligence report.”
The thrust she’s giving the Manawatū branch comes at a time of increased concern for crime and policing levels in Feilding.
Over 2100 people have signed a petition to increase police numbers in the area, meanwhile community support workers have planned a march this Thursday on the same issue.
“I want to return to the core purpose of Neighbourhood Support. More contact, connecting people, and enabling them to be in touch with their neighbours without them being in their back pocket.”
While social media could be a great tool, it was often at the mercy of an algorithm and commercial interests.
If text message groups didn’t work for a neighbourhood, she was confident an alternative could be found.
Although the organisation worked with police, reporting incidents to Neighbourhood Support was not the same as reporting a crime to police. She encouraged people who witnessed suspicious behaviour to call 105, and 111 for emergencies.
Thompson said anyone who wanted to step up and be a street co-ordinator could get in touch on 027 3237387 or email: email@example.com
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To learn more about how we create safer, more caring and connected streets, visit the Neighbourhood Support website here: neighbourhoodsupport.co.nz