20 Jan 2015

Pasifika community patrol launched

6:53 am on 20 January 2015

The first Pasifika Community Patrol has been launched in Wellington to help reduce crime and build stronger relationships between Pacific people and police.

Losaline Hopoi, Constable Loretta Hunt Tevaga and Emma Hopoi.

Losaline Hopoi, Constable Loretta Hunt Tevaga and Emma Hopoi. Photo: RNZ / Daniela Maoate-Cox

Volunteers have formed patrols throughout New Zealand since the early 2000s and in recent years there has been a push for more Pasifika wardens to join as a way to reduce crime and vicitimisation among Pacific people.

Student Emma Hopoi, 20, hopes volunteering on the patrol will be a stepping stone to a career in the police.

She said Pacific people are often intimidated by police officers, and she wants to change that attitude.

"The police are designed to be there for people. They're there for the public to keep them safe, they're not the enemy, they're the friends."

Her older sister Losaline Hopoi agrees and was inspired to join after hearing about the increasing crime rates for Pacific people, particularly among the youth.

"I just wanted to gain more knowledge on what I could do being part of the youth, to bring those crime rates down or prevent Pacific youth from fighting in the back of the police car."

Patrol founder, Constable Loretta Hunt-Tevaga, said a disproportionate amount of Pacific people are victims of crime but often don't want to bother the police.

"When I worked with our intelligence group I found that 62 percent of all victimisation is amongst Pacific people. I hope it (the patrol) will achieve lesser crime. It's all about prevention and we just want people to feel safe."

Also supporting the set up of the patrol is Wellington's Pacific Advisory Group chair Sai Lealea, who said it would will help mend the strained relationship between Pacific people and police rooted in historical events, such as the Dawn Raids of the 1970s which targeted Pacific overstayers.

"Insead of seeing police as some other members of goverment for instance, to really see the police as part of their own community and then they can feel that they can easily approach police for any issue that they might face."

Mr Lealea says the group would also work with young Pacific people to reduce drunk and disordely behaviour.

"We don't necessarily have that record of big kind of criminal offending in Wellington for Pacific people but for young people, just being a nusicance around and overuse of alcohol and so on. So that's something that we're really keen to work with police and our community on."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown formally launched the patrol at Wellington's Pasifika Festival at the weekend and said it was a first for New Zealand.

"It's really in line with other community patrols. It's eyes and ears in the community, for the community, by the community. It's also people who are trained and have some standing," she said.

"It's always good if there's people of your own group keeping an eye on sometimes youngsters of that group."

So far the patrol has twenty members including bank workers, retirees and students between the ages of 18 and 70.

All the members are trained by the national patrol organisation and will debut at the Wellington Sevens in February.

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