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Dedicated . . . Sergeant Tony Woodbridge (left), of Oamaru, and Andrew Wilson and Brian Harrison, of the Waitaki Community patrol, are committed to the volunteer organisation that supports local police. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

An Oamaru-based volunteer organisation is proud to keep playing a role in making the town safer.

After five years and thousands of hours, the Waitaki Community Patrol continues to provide an invaluable service to help local police.

Part of Community Patrols of New Zealand, the community patrol not only helps safeguard the streets of Oamaru, but also provides support at the many events on the district’s busy social calendar.

The patrol was established following a May 2012 meeting organised by Waitaki District Council community safety officer Helen Algar, who identified the need for a local community patrol.

After several subsequent meetings and the formation of a committee, the patrol was registered as a charitable trust in October 2012 and started with 12 members.

After a month of training and ride-alongs with local police, patrols officially started on November 11, 2012.

Waitaki Community Patrol founding member Andrew Wilson said its role was to act as “eyes and ears” in the community – observing and reporting incidents to police such as damage to property, disorderly behaviour, trespassing and other offences.

Patrols, in twos or threes, are carried out on Friday and Saturday nights around numerous streets in Oamaru and Weston, industrial areas, schools, the Victorian precinct and the harbour area.

Statistics provided by Mr Wilson show more than 5900 hours of patrols have been logged since 2012.

However, the number of reported incidents is dropping.

“We have been busy with our patrols, but we are not finding as many incidents as we used to,” Mr Wilson said.

He believed that could be attributed to the central businesses district’s liquor ban, introduced in 2009 and reviewed in 2013, which gave police the power to issue instant fines to those found to be breaching it.

Changes to drink-driving laws had also played a part.

“Since our earlier days of incident reporting .. the liquor ban area ruling has contributed to a much quieter CBD and changes in liquor laws now keep many cars at home, with the result that patrols are much quieter, a sign that prevention is better than curing the aftermath.”

Sergeant Tony Woodbridge, of Oamaru, said the patrol provided local police with essential support.

“It’s a reassurance and crime prevention measure for the community,” he said.

“If they see something that looks wrong, it usually is. They are the eyes and ears of the community for the police in a prevention role and they do a wonderful job.”