The eyes and ears of Mercury Bay
In our series featuring the charities, community groups and sport clubs active in Mercury Bay, and celebrating the volunteers involved in those organisations, we are this week focusing on the Mercury Bay Community Patrol.
“Are you tired of the willful damage and hooliganism in Whitianga?” This question was asked on 16 May 2007 at a meeting convened by the then Whitianga Residents and Ratepayers Association in the town hall. It was asked by Mercury Bay Community Patrol (MBCP) foundation member, Laurie Johnston.
The obvious answer to the question resulted in the almost instantaneous launch of the MBCP and 50 plus members signing up to kickstart the organisation. With the financial support of the business community and the effort put in by Barney Bowen, another foundation member and “Director of Operations” at the time, the MBCP saw its first patrol underway just three months after the meeting was called. The organisation has been keeping the streets and roads of Mercury Bay a safer place ever since.
Gary Sarginson, another foundation member and current secretary, and Jon Maud, the organisation’s current chair/coordinator, say that petty crime has been declining in Whitianga since 2007 due to the extra surveillance and monitoring that the MBCP provides. “My wife and I had moved to town in 2006, not long before the MBCP was formed, and I remember suggesting to her that maybe we should just move back to where we came from,” says Gary. “For a small ‘sleepy’ seaside town, there was a surprising amount of petty crime, vandalism, property damage and street brawls happening.”
Instead of packing his traps, Gary saw a great opportunity to “do something about it” by joining the new organisation and volunteering his time since that day.
Similarly, Jon, who has been a part of the MBCP for the past six years and was a patroller in Onehunga five years prior to moving to Whitianga, sees “a great need” for the MBCP’s presence in Mercury Bay. “We currently have a team of 38 members who patrol all throughout Mercury Bay, encompassing Matarangi through to Hahei,” he says. “Patrollers have fluctuating hours, generally three hours at a time, and stay out at night until the streets are clear. In the patrols we act as the eyes and ears of the community and report any suspicious behaviour to the Police. We have often been successful in our observations, some resulting in prosecutions.”
Jon says that besides vandalism, one of their biggest concerns at the moment is boy racers. “We get many young people racing around at night,” he says. “Often, they are responsible for a lot of damage to people’s property, sometimes tearing up their lawns by doing skids or donuts. Yes, it may all be fun and games for them, but it shouldn’t have to be at the expense of someone else. Besides, it only takes a split second or too sharp of a turn for racing to go terribly wrong and tragedy to strike - something we actively try to prevent.
“Along with preventing physical harm, we also like to safeguard people, when they leave the pub. We are here as protection as well as keeping an eye on young people roaming the streets at night, particularly near the Whitianga skatepark.”
Both Jon and Gary acknowledge that without the grants they receive from Thames-Coromandel District Council and the support from several local businessowners who generously discount their products and services, mostly with regard to maintenance of the organisation’s patrol vehicles, and past contributions from Bayleys Real Estate, their work would not be possible. “We are at our 15 year anniversary and it is a great opportunity to thank all those who have helped us to help the community,” says Gary. “It is seriously appreciated. My appreciation also extends, of course, to our dedicated team of volunteers. Without them, there would be no MBCP. We are always looking for more members to join our mission in creating a safer Mercury Bay and encourage anybody interested to reach out to us.
“Lastly, I would like to give recognition to the Police with whom we work closely. We operate under their guidance and instructions. Throughout the years we have had a great rapport with all local Police staff and have been given the encouragement that we do make a difference.”
To find out more about the MBCP, phone Ian McKenzie on (07) 866 4780, visit cpnz.org.nz or pop info the Whitianga Police Station.
Pictured is Whitianga Community Patrol chair/coordinator, Jon Maud (left), and secretary, Gary Sarginson.