29 Apr 2016

Where are the police, asks crime-hit Stokes Valley

5:43 am on 29 April 2016

Residents of a Lower Hutt suburb have launched a petition calling for greater police presence after a spate of violent crimes in the area.

In the space of a few weeks, a dairy worker in Stokes Valley was threatened at knife point, the local supermarket was robbed by a gunman and a road worker was struck by a car and seriously injured.

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Photo: RNZ/ Maja Burry

The Stokes Valley shopping centre is the hub of the 10,000 strong suburb.

The community shopping centre which is home to the suburb's only supermarket, a number of other businesses and a community police station, has found itself at the forefront of a crime spike.

Real estate agent John O'Flaherty said it was time to see a more preventative approach from police.

"We have had our windows smashed twice over the last couple of years, laptops stolen, you know we don't like it, it's frustrating. And just a policeman being seen around - that's what they're there for, the community funds it through taxes you know, we want that."

The petition is on the counter of the Stokes Valley dairy where a worker was recently threatened at knife point.

The petition is on the counter of the Stokes Valley dairy where a worker was recently threatened at knife point. Photo: RNZ/ Maja Burry

Stokes Valley has a community constable based at the mall, but many residents said he was never there.

Bridget Steele owns the florist and gift shop next to the station and said she often had people coming through her doors instead, asking her for help.

"I've opened the shops three months ago, and so over that period there's been quite a few people coming to talk to the police, and they've not been there, so they've ended up coming to me in the shop and on several occasions we've needed to call 111."

John Anderson owns Stokes Valley New World where this month a member of the public was hit over the head with the butt of a gun during an armed robbery.

The supermarket was encouraging people to sign the petition.

"I think it's really important that people should feel safe in their community, we were happy to support it because we're probably the most visited place in Stokes Valley, and everyone's entitled to have the opportunity to sign it if they want to."

The petition is being organised by Matthew Adams, who said he had gained 1500 written and online signatures in the past five days.

"I mean I love Stokes Valley, my family's been around here, and I obviously own my own house here and I think that there is some actions that can actually be done to maybe not stop the problem, but definitely improve the situation."

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Photo: RNZ/ Maja Burry

The petition will be presented to Minister of Police Judith Collins by the Hutt City Mayor.

Hutt Valley Area Commander Sean Hansen said many of the crimes in the area involved young people, and he would be meeting local council and government agencies on Monday to discuss how to tackle the issue.

But police were not ignoring Stokes Valley, he said.

"We still have a Stokes Valley community constable, he operates under the framework that's provided to us by the prevention first operating strategy and part of that is getting him out of the base as much as he can.

"From time to time he might not necessarily be deployed in Stokes Valley, but we deploy a whole lot of other staff there as well."

There was still a strong police presence in the valley, and anyone who wanted to help police should be putting their hand up and joining community patrol groups, he said.

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