Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A policeman's lot is...

Last Thursday evening I attended a briefing on the Canterbury Youth Development Program and the Refocus Program. Both these programs, headed up by Director,Mike Field and supported by a Board which I have the privilege to be on with input from Sergeant Bevan Seal, have done a remarkable job in Christchurch.

The Canterbury Youth Development Program looks after young men who have gone off the rails and is busy putting them back on. Currently the program has dealt with young men who if they were in prison would be costing $18,000 per person per month. When the program started Te Puna Wai Youth Justice Residence was bulging with Canterbury youth, there are now around two young people from Canterbury in Te Puna Wai Prison. The program has dealt with 85 young men since its inception and is currently running at a non-recidivist rate of around 50%.  Anything over 30% is regarded as World’s Best practice.

After that excellent presentation I spent the evening in an incident car with Sergeant Bevan Seal looking at what happens in night time Christchurch on a Thursday night. It was a real eye opener and certainly showed me the need for an effective police presence in our city and the incredibly demanding work carried out by our Police force in the interests of our community. The evening started off with a dispute between flat tenants which ended up with one tenant having his gear on the side of the road and the other tenant refusing to allow him back in the flat. We got that sorted with the disgruntled tenant moving on to a new flat.

We visited the temporary central Police Station and in particular had a look at the control centre which covers the whole of the South Island. The technological support is stunning and the speed at which Police can respond to any incident all over the South Island  reminded me a little bit of an air traffic control centre with people juggling and prioritising all of the activity and response that was occurring across the South Island – most impressive. We also had a look at the Station as a whole which is a pretty good temporary home for the Police until they get back into the Justice Precinct.

We then visited a home for children and young adults who are being looked after by the State. I had a very interesting discussion with a young man who is part of the Canterbury Youth Development Program and really appreciates the value it is creating for him. It has had a serious and positive impact on his life. No sooner had we left that residential address than we responded to a serious car accident in the University Precinct.  A high speed trip across town to ensure that we were on site to see the driver who had done a “runner” being apprehended and his fellow passengers, one of whom was the owner being cross examined.  The accident involved four cars and there was definitely alcohol involved. 

Cruising around the city after that we responded with urgency to a stabbing on the east side of town. This was a serious incident involving a large turnout of Police and the alleged suspect was apprehended with the stab victim being taken to hospital by the excellent St John people. It was a messy and potentially explosive situation which was extremely well handled by the Police. While that incident was being attended to there was a further emergency call to an alleged threatening drive-by on the east side of the city. We attempted to find the car involved but then left that job to return to the other side of town. There were several incidences in Manchester Street involving prostitutes misbehaviour and accessing vacant buildings, which once again the Police responded to positively and quickly. 

While travelling from place to place we did some 'stop and check' on vehicles that may have been non-road worthy, or drivers that evoked suspicion. This was all handled in a highly professional way. All in all an exciting night in the city and a very, very vivid experience of the challenges faced by a tireless Police Force.  For me it was a real lesson in the impact of alcohol in our city at night. The only incident we attended that did not directly involve alcohol  was the visit to the young peoples’ home. While we were attending our various incidents the Police were being called to other activity right across the city mainly involving drugs, alcohol and on several occasions apparent mental illness. Our society is definitely troubled by excessive drinking. It was no surprise to the Police that it was yet another night fuelled by alcoholic violence and accidents driven by excessive alcoholic consumption.

This is more than a problem for our hospitality industry. It is a problem with our culture, and in particular parts of our culture, and various sub-sets of our community that seem to be intent on fuelling themselves into oblivion with alcohol and then getting involved in situations which are threatening and violent. This results in their being unable to back down and ending up being arrested or at least managed by Police. As a society we have some lessons to learn.

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