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Security patrol service ends on Rarotonga. . . Where to next?

Monday 12 December 2022 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Crime, Local, National

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Security patrol service ends on Rarotonga. . . Where to next?
Cook Islands Security owner Chris Denny. Photo: CI NEWS/19091639

Chris Denny has ceased his security patrol services that he established four years ago. Seeing a downturn in his business services to accommodation owners, Denny said it was a sad day.

However, he said it was a relief to hand the responsibility of tourist’s protection back to the Police.

When Denny returned to Rarotonga around 2018, he established the security company, Cook Islands Security, as he had the intention to settle in Rarotonga.

He has had reputable security companies in New Zealand and Australia.

Denny said, pre-Covid-19, he had 80 per cent of accommodation owners on board and 20 per cent stayed on after Covid to keep the business going.

“The concept of the operation was the security presence needed to keep the offenders at bay.

“It took a year to get crime down 80 per cent from where we started.”

Denny said he gave a letter to the Tourism Council and announced that he had ceased the patrol service.

He gave two options regarding contract fees if he were to resume operation.

He said the Police had recorded an 80 per cent drop in crime and/or theft over the past three years. In his proposal to the council, he said over the border closure period, CIS kept its operation running, even when 70 per cent of the accommodation providers stopped using its services. “Disappointingly, it seems that none have recovered enough to reinstate our services. Therefore, CIS has decided to shut down its patrol operations to the wider community and will only be servicing our Commercial clients in Avarua.

“For CIS to provide a security presence, other than commercial, there are two options that could support the business into reinstating the patrol services.

“I am really concerned and fear the worst with criminal activity on the rise and with tourism expecting huge numbers next year it’s going to look ugly for the Cooks.”

 He said when he was given the job four years ago he carried out a professional job and helped reduce crime.

“But now they don’t see the value in paying $5 or $10 a day to keep us out there. Only 30 per cent reinstated the service when the borders opened.”

He said it was now up to tourism, if they want a safe environment for their guests

He claimed that from past experience shutting down security operations, it will only take three months to have the place ransacked again.

He added that CIS was not worthy of a grant or subsidy from Government to keep him on the road. “Having some income by helping police with the dog ranger service could have helped keep the patrol there but nothing. I could have received some income as first responders but nothing.”

Tourism

Cook Islands Tourism Council president Liana Scott said many businesses have had no choice but to pivot during Covid-19 and many have cash flow issues, and needed to prioritise.

Scott said some accommodation owners employed full time security. 

“Some opted out of the programme because they did not see the same attention that was promised at the beginning.”

Asked if they think there could be a result in more break-ins, Scott said: “We are very conscious of the negative impact that any sort of break-in creates – both to the guest and property owner, not to mention the reputational damage to the country.”

In terms of CIS being reliable and helping reduce the crime rate, as well as providing a safe environment for tourists, Scott said the presence of any additional visual security services assists in discouraging opportunity – absolutely, whether it be additional bars on a window, cameras or physical presence like the services that CIS was providing. 

“CIS gave an additional point of contact beside the police where property owners or staff could call on if they needed assistance or felt themselves in a threatening situation.”

Scott said the cost of CIS services was not unreasonable.

However, she said it is up to the individual properties to weigh up what protection measures they have in place vs what services CIS can provide

This festive season in terms of security measures, Scott said it is easy for one to get into a festive mood as Christmas nears, but it is important to remind guests to stay vigilant.

“Do as you would do back home – don’t leave sliding doors unlocked, or bags with valuables on the beach. 

“We trust that the Police will have more of a presence during the festive period and be ‘on the beat’ to cover some of the gap that Chris and his team now leave. 

We know that Chris has been extremely passionate about offering these services as a proud Cook Islander who dreams of an island without crime and we congratulate him for his service – I have a feeling that he will be back,” she added.

Police

Cook Islands Police media officer Trevor Pitt said Police cannot comment on the viability of a private enterprise. 

But generally, Pitt said Police work is often dependent on the community being engaged in helping with information, particularly witness accounts and conditions surrounding an incident like a break-in. 

“Security measures all help the community in different ways, including deterrence.  Individuals and businesses can take their own steps by closing the gaps on risks - better lighting, cameras, lock-up and reinforcement of potential entry points.  Also, get to know your neighbourhood and who comes and goes.”

Statistically, he said the Covid-19 years saw a more prominent decline in burglaries mainly due to the huge reduction in risk to properties like tourist accommodation and people spending more time around homes. 

He said 2021 was a record low year - 69 reported break-ins. 

While the burglaries this year will surpass that total, the break-ins had already started declining in 2019 - well before the pandemic. 

“Police work on known offenders was impacting on criminal activity and cut the burglary rate,” he added.

What now?

Denny is happy to pump weights and make smoothies.

He says he trains 200 locals through his training programmes and helps rebuild immune systems and reset bodies by building muscles.

“A body's organs can come alive if the body acts like it wants to. Most importantly it all equals a strong immune system. I am protective of our people as most people know but l also care about the quests we invited to this Island but l can no longer afford to watch over them if their hosts don’t care.”