Southern District commander superintendent Andrew Coster.
Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Policing in Otago and Southland is undergoing
''significant changes'' aimed at maximising frontline policing
while reducing administration time, the Southern district's top
Superintendent Andrew Coster knows his statistics.
The district's new commander said over the current fiscal
year foot patrols had increased 50% compared to the previous
year. Checkpoints were up 13% and visits to licensed premises
While crime around the district and the country was falling,
the public perception was often ''not well connected to the
reality - as the public perception of safety is not
increasing at the same rate that crime is falling''.
As for isolated serious crime, where people think `that could
have been me', ''the likelihood of it being them at any time
in the future is incredibly small''.
The drop in crime at a national and district level showed
that the new police prevention first operating strategy was
working, he said.
And statistics, such as crime in the district falling 27% in
2012-13 when compared with 2008-09, showed the changes were
having an impact.
New smart devices and telephone dictation were helping free
staff from office work and give them more time on the front
''We are moving to a point that the frontline staff don't
need to spend time in the station; they are out being
Using the available technology, they could do their reporting
in real time rather than at the end of a shift, he said.
Police were encouraging the public to report non-urgent crime
via the Crime Reporting Line. Details were given to staff at
a call centre and information collated and assigned to local
''The local cop may still come and visit off the back of the
Crime Reporting Line, but at least, the reporting bit is done
for them and in a timely fashion.''
Staff were positive about the changes, as it aligned with
their hopes for the job when they joined the force - active
policing rather than spending time at the station doing
He estimated smart devices were contributing towards a large
saving in administration work, and once systems were fully
embedded it was possible each officer would be spared a day
of administration duties each week.
To deliver the changes, support staff had been centralised
and police were now ''less tied to bricks and mortar to
deliver a policing service''.
He said he understood having a manned police station in a
neighbourhood helped that community feel safer.
''But, actually, it is less about how many police we have
sitting in a station at a particular place and more about how
well are we able to deploy our resources to areas of risk.''
Asked if the new direction was foreshadowing closures, Supt
Coster said: ''I have no knowledge of any intention to close
any police station.''
People needed to know that the placement of police was more
dynamic than it was a decade ago and ''if you are judging the
security of your neighbourhood by the number of police staff
at a local police station, you are not understanding the way
we are deploying these days''.
Asked if some areas were under-resourced. he replied that if
you took into account the resources in the Southern district
compared to the demand ''we are probably the best resourced
district in the country''.
Meanwhile, he stressed a potential move to align the Clutha
district with Southland was not a ''formal proposal'', but
staff had been asked to provide submissions by January 24.
In practical terms, the move to Southland would mean ''very
little'' change in how Clutha police operated, and the public
were welcome to submit, he said.
The changes, such as smart devices and the introduction of
the district command centre meant ''the focus is on ensuring
that we have police staff doing the right things in the right
places at the right time''.
Success would be measured by a reduction in crime and
crashes, preventive deployment of officers and the visible
presence of police officers in Otago and Southland
communities, he said.