A multi-faceted collaborative effort between the Rotorua District Council, Rotorua police and the business community is proving successful in making the CBD a safer place for our city businesses and their customers.
Take, for example, our City Safe Guardians. This is a bold and innovative programme funded by the council and Ministry of Justice, operated in partnership with our local police.
Our City Safe Guardians team regularly patrols Rotorua's CBD and surrounding reserves acting as a deterrent to troublesome or illegal behaviour. They have become extra eyes and ears for the council, police and local businesses, reporting suspicious behaviour and property damage. They also assist the public and visitors by answering queries and giving helpful directions.
A Guardian Hotline number operates for CBD businesses and is used in non-urgent situations. Hotline calls go to a cellphone carried by Guardians who can be quickly on the spot, with police also called if necessary.
If Guardians see minor behaviour incidents, a friendly chat with those involved is usually enough to diffuse the matter. With more serious incidents, such as fighting, shoplifting, drug dealing and verbal abuse, the police are immediately contacted and will usually attend within minutes.
Guardians often encounter other situations where they are able to lend a hand. For example, they provided first aid to an elderly man who suffered a fall and a woman involved in a downtown car accident.
They have assisted assault victims, looked after mental health patients, helped with directing traffic after accidents and they regularly keep an eye on unlocked cars. They also do a CityRide bus circuit if there are passengers acting suspiciously or the bus driver feels unsafe.
City Safe Guardians help monitor the city's CBD cameras from the Rotorua police station and have been effective in spotting offenders, leading to a number of arrests.
They regularly check in on retailers and distribute a newsletter keeping businesses up to date on crime statistics, important phone numbers and crime prevention advice.
The Guardians have an excellent working relationship with Rotorua police who are 100 per cent behind the project. Police assist with training for the Guardians, provide ongoing support with "beat patrols", have sourced radios for the team and provide training in use of closed circuit television cameras.
In January, a survey of CBD businesses showed 86 per cent were aware of the City Safe Guardian programme, 82 per cent believed the programme was having a positive impact on safety, and 87 per cent wanted the project to continue beyond the current year.
Police crime statistics for December, January and February showed a significant decrease in reported crime in the CBD, particularly with shoplifting, thefts and disorderly behaviour.
This all makes a compelling case for continuation of the programme.
So our mayor and councillors have agreed to continue to support our CBD businesses by allocating funding for the City Safe Guardians programme for at least another two years, with a review in 12 months to determine its future.
Peter Guerin is chief executive of Rotorua District Council.