Fifteen Years of Community Patrol
Contribution from Gary Sargison
Auckland, with its daring day time ram raids and nightly drug busts, seems a long way from what is our largely, safe and connected community. When we read the police reports of the communities in Mercury Bay and across the Coromandel Peninsula, people generally feel safe and that help, when needed, is near at hand. In 2007, it was not the case.
In Mercury Bay, there is a group of volunteers who provide a net of safety and reassurance for our residents and township and a level of deterrence for would-be offenders. That is our Mercury Bay Community Patrol (MBCP), a team of volunteers who work with the police to keep our community safe. On Sunday afternoon, about 35 of the volunteers who make up the Community Patrol, gathered at the Lost Spring in Cook Street to celebrate 15 years of continuous Community Patrol in Whitianga.
It was a truly auspicious occasion. The Lost Spring provided an elegant environment and a gracious spread of food for the occasion. Alan Hopping, owner of The Lost Spring, hosted everyone, gave an entertaining and inspiring message concluding with a heartfelt thank you to each of the volunteers for their work. Jon Maud, the team leader of Community Patrol, was presented with a Deed of Appreciation by Dean Anderson, the Waikato East Commander of New Zealand Police who came especially for the occasion. Special recognition was given, as well as personally prepared Certificates of Appreciation, to five members who have been serving their neighbourhood through Community Patrol for the entire 15 years since its inception. Our local police were also present and it is not lost on our readers that the Police Report published in The Informer always thanks the Community Patrol for their assistance and consistence in patrolling, being the ‘extra eyes and ears’ for the Police.
A special cake had been made and decorated with an image of the Community Patrol vehicle. Patrolling duo, Ian and Yvonne Mackenzie, who have been doing the Saturday night shift from 11.00pm to 2.00am for 15 years, had the honour of cutting the cake. Yvonne said, “Sometimes I ask myself, ‘what are you doing, you silly old thing, driving around at this time on a Saturday night.’ But, I’m doing it with Ian and I’m doing a good thing. What else could we be doing?” she laughs.
2007 - `Are you tired of the wilful damage and hooliganism in Whitianga’? That’s when Laurie Johnston arranged a meeting, convened by the Whitianga Residents and Ratepayers Association, on Wednesday, 16 May in the Town Hall, asking that very question. 50 plus persons signed up as support for a local Community Patrol. Community Patrols of New Zealand (CPNZ) is a national organisation which formed a `Memorandum of Understanding` with Police in 2002. Local Community Patrols are comprised of volunteers who act as ~Eyes and Ears` for the Police and assist Emergency Services as required. Local patrols are autonomous in their operations, but are Affiliated to CPNZ and guided by national policies.
Tony Dartnell was the first Chairperson, Carol Withers, Secretary, and Barney Bowen became Director of Operations. With financial support from the Business Community, Mercury Bay Community Patrol (MBCP) was born. On August 17, 2007, the first patrol took place in a small vehicle purchased from the funding. Since that time, MBCP has become an Incorporated Society and registered as a Charity; new vehicles have been purchased -2016; the work of the Community Patrol has extended to Ferry Landing and Hahei; Matarangi Community Patrol sits under the MBCP; the local vehicle is housed in a carport within the confines of the Whitianga Police Station.
A major achievement for the Community Patrol was to provide security to the Westpac Helicopter domiciled at the Whitianga airfield. For two years when the helicopter was in Whitianga, patrol members watched over it during the hours of darkness. The above was recognised by CPNZ with a National Award. Generous Support From the Community Patrol’s inception, Thames Coromandel District Council has, through its long-term planning process, has supported the organisation financially, allowing it to concentrate on providing the service as agreed. Bayleys Realty and St Andrews Op Shop have provided significant funding. Many local businesses have offered low-cost assistance and there has been generous support always from the Mercury Bay Business Community. Just recently, the St Andrews Op Shop gave a donation of $1,077 to cover insurance for the patrol vehicles. There are 40 active members of the MBCP. This past year, 254 patrols have been undertaken with 1224 volunteer hours.
Caption: Dean Anderson, Waikato East Area Commander, NZ Police, with the 15 years of service, Community Patrol members – Yvonne MacKenzie, John Pedersen, Ian MacKenzie, Gary Sarginson.