“Desperate Hawke’s Bay locals sent a clear message to the Government at a packed public meeting last night – listen to us, we need more support,” says ACT’s Justice spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“It was sobering to attend the meeting and listen. Many residents spoke of the concerns they have and gave clear advice on how the Government can help them feel safe.

“Hawke’s Bay is already an area with a large gang presence. I received responses to Written Parliamentary Questions from Police Minister Stuart Nash yesterday that show the Eastern Police District has the second highest prevalence of gang members in New Zealand.

“There is clear discomfort as patched gang members are out in the open, and many people believe they are scoping out their properties for looting. Suggestions of weekly communications from Police, street by street or suburb by suburb, would go a long way to making people feel more at ease.

“People were deeply grateful to Police on the ground who are doing a fantastic job, the constant comment was that they are spread too thin though. Many spoke of the need for them to be bolstered by the Defence Force on the ground, something that ACT has been calling for since the Napier Mayor called for it last Monday.

“Residents made the point that bringing in the Defence Force is not a sign that the Police have lost control, it is ensuring that the Police can maintain control and will allow people to have the sense of security that can let them get on with recovery.

“There were so many other stories shared I cannot possibly list them all. I’m deeply appreciative to the organisers who deserve credit for creating a platform where people could talk freely and be heard. Rest assured, we listened.

“I’m grateful to those in attendance who shared their experiences. Locals feel like they’ve been lied to about the seriousness of crime taking place. They’re living it, they know what they’re experiencing, and we owe it to them to listen.”

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Nicole McKee