Neighbourhood support draws warm welcome

Sarah Hexamer
Sarah Hexamer
Plans to set up neighbourhood support groups in South Otago are going well, and organisers received a warm reception in Waihola this week.

Otago Neighbourhood Support regional manager Sarah Hexamer said she was working with police and residents to establish neighbourhood support groups in the South Otago area.

''We had a meeting in Waihola on Monday night, which went really well. Everyone we spoke to was really enthusiastic - one of the best proactive communities I've come across.''

Constable Will Pentelow, of Milton, said the purpose of the group was to build a community network and bring people together.

A meeting in Taieri Mouth in December also went well and both Ms Hexamer and Const Pentelow hoped Milton would come take up the scheme.

Will Pentelow
Will Pentelow
Neighbourhood support works by dividing towns into areas, each of which nominates a contact person to liaise with police. At meetings, people learn how to spot potential criminal activity and what type of information to record.

Otago Neighbourhood Support also publishes a monthly newsletter.

''No matter how safe your community is now, you don't know what will happen in the future. Being proactive and engaging with us as neighbourhood support ... [people] are caring about the community,'' Ms Hexamer said.

''It's very beneficial for police and a good way to pass on information.''

Neighbourhood support also helped civil defence efforts by allowing the community network to be used in an emergency.

Craig Dinnissen
Craig Dinnissen
Sergeant Craig Dinnissen, of Balclutha, said neighbourhood support was ''very worthwhile'' for police.

''We get very good communication and awareness from that group. We don't have the resources to police 24-7.''

Police encouraged neighbourhood support groups and worked to help set them up in the community, Sgt Dinnissen said.

Neighbourhood support groups in Lawrence and Kaitangata are already in place, although the Kaitangata group is not yet affiliated with Otago Neighbourhood Support.

Ms Hexamer said rural neighbourhood support groups were also possible and the group in the Clutha Valley was doing ''really well''. She hoped to set up a similar rural initiative at Lawrence.

Ms Hexamer will approach Milton residents in the next few weeks about the scheme, before looking at Balclutha and Oamaru.

Anyone interested in creating or taking part in a neighbourhood support group can telephone (03) 488-2392 or email: admin@ons.org.nz.

- helena.dereus@odt.co.nz