Rural community unites against ram raids and crime

A small township in the Bay of Plenty targeted by ram raids and rural crime is ‘taking a stand’ to keep thieves and criminals away from their community.

He had rallied after being ‘shaken’ by a series of crimes and raised $40,000 for a new vehicle for the Reporoa Community Patrol, which was unveiled today.

Rotorua MP Todd McClay praised the fundraising effort, but he knew Reporoa and many other rural areas in his constituency felt ‘under siege’ and that the police needed more resources to ensure people can feel safe.

The Reporoa Community Patrol began about three years ago and President Bruce Vermeulen candidly said “we’ve had our guts full and crime is on the rise”.

”We take a stand”.

He wanted to thank the members of the patrol who have worked tirelessly over the past 18 months to raise funds and the members of the community who have donated.

”The community has always supported something they thought was worthwhile. It was fantastic.”

Bruce Vermeulen, president of the Reporoa Community Patrol. Photo / Mead Norton

The business owner and paramedic said the last ram raid was at the Farm Source store a few weeks ago and there was vandalism and theft on the farm.

Trailers, motorcycles and tools had been stolen from properties and “the whole invasion” was upsetting.

The dairy and pub were also raided, according to Vermeulen.

“Because we’re a farming community and we don’t necessarily live next door to our neighbors, we always feel their pain when people get robbed or vandalized or whatever.”

It was not uncommon for the patrol to cover 1400 km per month, night and day.

Reporoa Community Patrol secretary and training manager Keren Leslie said it was a small but passionate team of farmers, engineers, horticulturists and business owners.

”We offer our energy and our time to patrol our area, to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of the police. We’ve had a period of ram raids in our area lately, which have rocked our community, and we hope our new patrol car will help in the fight against crime.”

“We’re here to fill in the gaps, to stay visible, to hopefully help prevent burglaries, domestic violence, drunk driving or even help at accident sites with traffic control. .”

Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupo Provincial President Colin Guyton.  Picture/file

Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupo Provincial President Colin Guyton. Picture/file

Federated Farmers Rotorua/Taupo provincial president Colin Guyton said he had been victimized by thieves on several occasions.

“In my experience, one of the most sought after commodities is fuel. I’ve had quite a bit of stolen fuel over the years and as a result of that while they’re there they take whatever they can find.

His farm was in the Reporoa watershed and was at least a 30-minute drive from any police assistance.

”In reality, our best line of attack is prevention.”

He had put an alarm on his fuel tank, which deterred thieves.

Guyton said the Reporoa Community Patrol should be commended for their hard work and dedication.

”What these guys are doing is probably going to drive crime out of our area. Unfortunately, another place will take care of it, but that’s what our community decided to do to try to help themselves.

”It’s brilliant.”

Guyton said it was extremely important that people report crimes to the police, no matter how trivial.

“Very often, reporting a suspicious vehicle or a minor crime leads to the resolution of a major crime. ”

Fonterra Bay of Plenty regional manager Lisa Payne said community crime was always disappointing and the recent burglaries at her Farm Source Reporoa store were no exception.

”Fonterra and the Farm Source team are truly grateful for the additional support the Reporoa Community Patrol has provided following the break-ins. We’ve also donated to the Patrol, through our community program – Hapori, and we’re really proud to support their efforts.”

MP Todd McClay said the police were doing their best but, in his view, they were understaffed and under-resourced.

”We hear a lot of crime in and around farms and you only have to read social media to see how bad it is getting for some of them. I’ve had many constituents contact me who are pretty clueless.

”I really feel for people who live in rural areas, they pay their taxes and they pay their fares…they should feel safe in their homes and communities. ”

A police spokeswoman said the Reporoa Police Zone was geographically large and was between Rotorua and Taupo with two main access roads running through it.

Although the population is not large, it attracts a large number of people passing through it.

Anecdotally, he was only aware of a small number of ram-type burglaries in the area.

”The police understand that burglaries of all kinds are extremely distressing for victims, and we work hard to hold offenders to account wherever possible.

We see the same type of crime as in other rural areas – largely opportunistic crime where property like fuel, vehicles and tools are stolen. We work hard to track down offenders and hold them accountable, and we rely on the community to report suspicious or criminal behavior to us so we can ensure our resources are deployed effectively.”

Police Minister Chris Hipkins was approached for comment.

Reporoa Community Patrol

* It currently has 8 active trained patrollers.

* The patrol area is Reporoa, Waikite, Rerewhaakaitu and Ngakuru.

* Last year, the patrol averaged 60 hours a month despite the pandemic.

* The patrol is looking for like-minded people who would like to volunteer as patrollers.

Want to report a crime?

* If it happens now, dial 111, or if you report after the fact, you can call 105 or go online.

* If you have information to share anonymously about criminal behavior or ongoing investigations, call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

About Keneth T. Graves

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