Rotorua folk are now feeling safer following police and council moves to increase security.
Before Christmas, both authorities were moved to take swift action following large dollops of complaints within the Rotorua CBD, particularly at nights.
Business and members of the public complained of intimidation, which seemed to coincide with the setting up of a centre for Rotorua’s homeless.
But it was revealed much of the intimidation was initiated by an unsavoury element swinging on the coat-tails of genuine homeless people seeking overnight sanctuary.
An update on how successful the move has been was outlined at yesterday’s council meeting of its operations and monitoring committee of the Rotorua Lakes Council, which combined with the Rotorua Police in a stringent security cleanup.
In a presentation, Senior Sergeant Dennis Murphy, a long-term Rotorua police resident in an occupation which moves its staff around, says “positive, verbal comments” had been received from retailers.
“I’ve been wanting this for so long and it is making a huge difference in our streets at night.”
“I have noticed a large reduction I violence and preloading people walking on the roads in the last couple of weeks.”
“This initiative is so important for the continued safety for our community and visitors.”
“We have noticed business sale has (sic) picked up for the days when there is live music going”.
To a question from Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, Dennis says there were case where, because the police could not be everywhere, businesses had to take some responsibility.
“But there are issues in the best scenario where you don’t need security; the reality is people need to take responsibility for their own premises and business,” says Dennis.
Meeting chairman Charles Sturt says the officer said there was a criminal element of 15-20 using the perception of homelessness as a vehicle for criminal activity and “I think that isn’t widely known in the community”.
He says the homeless people were “getting a hiding” in terms of certain activities on the street outside certain centres.
“I’ve parked outside those several times – one day I spent 20 minutes there – and I didn’t see any negative times. If that criminal element is using the homelessness tag as an opportunity to do their criminal work that needs to be widely known,” says Charles.
Dennis says the Police had photographs of suspects which were regularly reviewed. Lighting had also been improved in key areas, including lights in trees.
Businesses were also sharing their intelligence with locally appointed guardians, adding to tighter security in the CBD.
The Police also revealed that those involved in criminal activity were not the homeless, but those who created the impression of being homeless.
Crime had also decreased by close to 17 per cent in the CBD, along with other increases, over a monthly period.