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Robberies, burglaries and assaults in Hutt and Porirua – “what can we do?”

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RNZ is reporting concerns from some Porirua and Lower Hutt residents who say there’s been an increase in incidents of robbery, burglary and assault. There have been several community meetings to find out the cause and to come up with solutions.

Report from RNZ by Hamish Cardwell
Jennifer Hanson’s teenage son was attacked this weekend by a group of young people – including a nine-year-old – outside Queensgate Mall in Lower Hutt north of Wellington.

“While he was at his bike, the 13-year-old came up and punched him twice in the back of the head and kicked him in the back of the legs. Then [the] nine-year-old pulled a box cutter out and threatened him.”

She said her son was sore and shaken up.

When she posted about the assault on a community Facebook page, she was flooded with responses from people sharing similar recent experiences.

“All these people are popping out of the woodwork saying ‘my kids were harassed by a group of kids’.

“At least eight or nine other people say that their children had been either threatened or physically attacked by these kids.”

Locals say these kinds of incidents are unfortunately a common story in the Hutt and Porirua in the past couple of months.

There are reports of people being threatened with a machete, a spate of shootings, and people being mugged and beaten on the bus.

Police said in late October a man was hospitalised with stab wounds after an incident in central Wainuiomata. They said while there was nothing to suggest a spate of offending in Wainuiomata, anecdotally there has been a recent increase in reported burglaries in Tītahi Bay.

Analysis of police crime stats up to the end of September by the consultancy firm Dot Loves Data shows in Lower Hutt burglaries dropped considerably during lockdown but are trending back up.

Most other crime remains down after lockdown, and it is a similar story in Porirua.

But Max Faletutulu, the Pastor of the Tītahi Bay Community Church, said the local community started experiencing a surge in crime in the past month – and it had ramped up in recent weeks. He said every second day there was some sort of incident.

“Last night one of the residents got attacked with a knife [by] the fish and chip shop. So it’s getting worse … [it is] getting to that point that you’ve got to look over your shoulder now.”

He said last Thursday 50 people turned out to a community meeting in Tītahi Bay which was also attended by police, local councillors, Pasifika Community Patrol and Māori Wardens, and social service providers to discuss the situation.

Locals who had been burgled or assaulted described their trauma and fear at the meeting, he said.

“People are feeling unsafe, too many robberies and cars being broken into – and even home invasion kind of things. People are just wanting to be safe. What can we do?”

Faletutulu said while police and wardens were doing their best, an idea that came out of the meeting was for neighbours to get to know and look out for each other. He said there would be a community BBQ on 28 November at Tītahi Bay Community Church.

Hutt South MP Ginny Andersen said there appeared to be an escalation in anti-social incidents. She said there was a community-led meeting about the issue in Wainuiomata on Monday – the second such meeting in a month.

Andersen said a positive concrete outcome from it was that the Open Polytechnic offered to facilitate developing a course for young people to do outdoor activities in Wainuiomata.

“We’re really lucky to have a number of really high profile and excellent performing sports stars in Wainuiomata.

“So there’s been talk of local leaders being able to step up and assist mentoring and doing different activities that people love to do in Wainuiomata – whether it be hunting or fishing or just enjoying the bush.”

There was also interest in basing Te Pae Oranga – or iwi justice panels that aim to keep Māori out of court – in the valley.

Hanson, whose teenage son was attacked in the Hutt, agreed the best approach to the problem was not to throw the book at young people. “A lot of these kids are hurt kids. A lot of our people in prisons are hurt kids grown up. I am a firm believer that we’ve got to start looking at the root of the issue, not just trying to be the ambulance at the bottom of the hill and put more security out there and more police presence.”

Police said they were working with the Tītahi Bay and Wainuiomata community and leaders to reduce crime.