Police squad to patrol roads

Motorists in Central Otago can expect to be stopped any time, anywhere and tested for alcohol by a new five-officer police squad set up specifically to patrol the district's roads.

Recent government funding for the New Zealand Police allowed a sergeant and four constables to be permanently stationed in Alexandra, with the purpose of cracking down on drink-driving.

Most of the squad had been selected and a position for one more constable was being advertised nationally, in the hope the team would be operating by early March.

Southern Highway Patrol Team leader Senior Sergeant Steve Larking, of Dunedin, said there were a lot of serious crashes in Central Otago and many of them were alcohol related.

‘‘We believe there is a problem with drink-driving in the area and when the funding came through that's what we decided to put resources into,'' he said.

Snr Sgt Larking said while most of the squad would reside in Alexandra and operate from the town's police station, they would be patrolling roads throughout the district, as well as in Queenstown and Wanaka.

‘‘Alexandra is a central location for them to drive to each place from. There will be a bit of a revamp at the Alexandra police station to accommodate them,'' he said.

The Alexandra station was being altered and a house behind the station which was owned by the police would be turned into a traffic base for the squad.

Sergeant Bruce Martin, of Invercargill, had been appointed to head the team, and constables were moving to Alexandra from places around the country, including Queenstown.

The squad was expected to cover any major event within Central Otago to do with alcohol-related traffic incidents, and would also help with other policing matters, if necessary.

‘‘It won't just be day work. The shifts will be centred around busy nights such as Thursday, Friday and Saturday,'' Snr Sgt Larking said.

He said the squad would likely be involved in uncovering other non-alcohol-related crime in the process of stopping people for breath testing.

‘‘There are examples of that happening elsewhere,'' Snr Sgt Larking said.

The officer in charge of Central Otago, Senior Sergeant Mike Cook, said the squad would be a valuable asset to the area and would free other police officers time for other work.

Snr Sgt Cook said a traffic squad had previously been assembled each week from various staff of different stations in Central Otago, Wanaka, and Queenstown.

‘‘There will be a much greater flow of police on the roads from Central Otago into Queenstown and Wanaka, where there is a lot of traffic movement, and the traffic policing will be much more focused,'' he said of the new squad.

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