Updated: Feb 14
This is an interest-piece prepared by Tony McKone, arising from a recent meeting between Hutt Valley Police Commander, Inspector Dion Bennett and Mayor Campbell Barry with business owner at the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce.
On 9 February 2023 the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce facilitated a discussion for Hutt businesses with Inspector Dion Bennett NZ Police for the Hutt Valley and Hutt City Mayor, Campbell Barry.
Mayor Barry acknowledged the impact of crime on those who have been affected and ran through some of the initiatives the Hutt City Council (HCC) are working on. Barry stated that the challenges with youth in Bunny Street, outside Queensgate Mall, are not new and have been around for a long time. The HCC are looking at a re-design of the bus stops and putting in 360degree CCTV cameras.
Barry stated that HCC are looking to move the bus stops in Bunny Street onto Queens Drive and will be looking for feedback on the impacts of that, particularly on parking. The HCC is also looking to upgrade and place more CCTV cameras around the city and look to improve lighting.
HCC have also appointed a CBD Coordinator to work on theft prevention and disorder issues with local business. Hutt City businesses can contact Matthew McKenzie, the City Safety Manager on any issues or questions they may have.
Inspect Bennett stated that the Hutt Valley as a whole is a busy place for the Police, however he also acknowledged that there are a lot of good people in the valley too. Bennett said the challenge for Police is to define the problem before putting solutions in place, otherwise the solution won’t address the problem. Bennett stated that the issues in the Hutt include youth and retail crime, boy racers, anti-social vehicle use, and family harm. In respect to family harm Bennett stated from 1 December 2022 to mid-January the Police in the Hutt valley had responded to over 1000 family harm incidents and that these are both time consuming and resource intensive.
Bennett stated that the Bunny Street project that had been in place since 1 December and resulted in a drop off in reported crime and an increase in people feeling safe. The key, according to Bennett, is engaging with the youth. Bennett described three tiers of youth – a small hard core of long-time offenders who are driving the problems, a second tier who don’t initiate problems but join in when it is initiated and the final tier, excited on-lookers who get involved but who are not sure why they’re there.
The Beat Team that has been in place in Bunny Street will end on 31 March 2023. This resource is pulled from other areas of front-line policing in the valley. Bennett is said he will be watching what happens over the winter months, and that the Beat Team will be back in place for the spring/summer season 2023/24. Bennett stated if issues arise over winter, the Police will respond and that community constables continue to remain in place.
One attendee stated that in Queensgate Mall, they have observed adults using children under 14 to commit theft and that the offenders use a whistleblowing system to indicate a target area/shop.
Bennett stated retailers should do an audit of their premises by using the NZ Police Crime Prevention Checklist Protect your business | New Zealand Police.
An outcome of the meeting was that the Chamber will work with local businesses across the Hutt Valley to facilitate sessions with the likes of the Police and HCC for business owners to better understand what they can do to be better prepared to protect their businesses from theft and crime in general.