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PM pledges return of community policing to tackle ‘rising crime’

Tuesday 25 June 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in Crime, Local, National, Parliament

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PM pledges return of  community policing to tackle ‘rising crime’
Ten graduating members of the Ratu Isoa Waka Recruit Wing took the Police Oath on March 4, 2022. Police have had no recruiting for two years and vacancies are not being filled. POLICE MEDIA/24062501

Prime Minister Mark Brown, who is also the Minister for Police, says he will ensure the re-establishment of community police to tackle the rising crime rate in Rarotonga.

Brown made these comments in Parliament last week while discussing and passing the Ministry of Police budget allocation of $6,288,983.

The Prime Minister said he would hold meetings with the Members of Parliament from Puaikura and Takitumu to see how the community police can begin as soon as possible.

Speaking to Cook Islands News, Brown confirmed: “One of the priorities that I’ve mentioned is to ensure the re-establishment of our community police.”

While supporting the police budget for the 2024/25 financial year, Cook Islands United Party and Akaoa MP Robert Heather said he noticed there was no allocation for community police.

However, Heather said it was comforting to know that “Prime Minister did address this as an urgent service”.

He said the Vaka Puaikura community police was established in 2008 and unfortunately ceased operation in 2016. During that time, crime dropped significantly because of the relationship between the vaka police, community and volunteer wardens.

Heather said the three MPs from Puaikura supported the initiative and saw the need to revive community policing.

“It is grassroots policing, connecting people with police, vice versa and the results speak for itself.”

Heather said that three out of 60 volunteer police wardens went on to work with the Ministry of Justice sector, and five became honorary constables.

He highlighted that Puaikura has had eight major and 11 minor vehicle accidents but fortunately no fatality.

Heather added that six vehicles were clocked over 110km/hr by the traffic counter. Additionally, theft and burglary are on the rise, affecting businesses and families.

“To our government we implore you to take action now ... recruit and pay them well to provide the essential service for a safe and secure Cook Islands.”

Ngatangiia MP Tukaka Ama said that after discussing the issue with PM Brown, they agreed to bring back community policing in Takitumu

Ama said that since Ngatangiia is the hub for tourism in Rarotonga, it's important to have community policing in place for everyone, including tourists who visit the area.

He said there were some retired police officers who could be utilised to assist in policing.

PM Brown said the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management will assist in identifying areas of resourcing that need to be put in place to have the programme running.

He said he’s confident that close collaboration with MFEM, the police department, and the district MPs will lead to significantly more effective policing in the future.