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Mayor says drugs being sold outside his window

Beggars demanding sex acts from an innocent woman in the Tauranga CBD.  Passersby being followed to their cars and harassed, people being yelled at and other acts of intimidation and aggression – “horrific incidents” reported to Tauranga MP Simon Bridges by abused constituents in the last month.

“Whether it’s behaviour induced by drugs or alcohol, it’s serious … a working title for your story is – police need to enforce the begging ban bylaw.”

And, claims the MP, they haven’t been. “Look, they will say, it’s not our job. But ….”

From his office in the CBD council building, Mayor Greg Brownless has watched what appeared to be drug deals going on downstairs on Willow Street.

“Also people being harassed at ATMs and all sorts of other boorish behaviour – drug or alcohol affected people generally making life unpleasant for others.”  Of course he calls the police. “When I do they will pop down when they can. Often they will, sometimes they won’t.”

The Weekend Sun sought an interview with Western Bay of Plenty area police commander, Inspector Clifford Paxton and received a two paragraph response on his behalf from the police media team in Wellington.

It said the begging bylaw is not enforced by police. Calls for service relating to begging, absent of any other criminal behaviour, will be referred to council.

However, police will attend where there are clear offences such as disorderly behaviour, intimidation or threats. And they would urge anyone who experiences such behaviour to contact police regardless of whether it is related to begging.

The police response to date sits uncomfortably with the Mayor – crime and disorder in broad daylight, right under his nose, on his patch.

“The bylaw was our best effort,” he says. But while the council believed it had provided the tools to deal with the beggar problem, no one has picked them up and used them.

“Talk to some of the retailers,” says Mayor Brownless. “Police told them if the council passed a bylaw they could do something. Of course, we did but they can’t.”

So is Tauranga’s heart in danger of being relinquished to beggars, substance abusers and other undesirables?

“It’s simple to me,” says Simon Bridges. “If we want a safe CBD that people want to go into, and I guess everyone in our city does, then the police need to take ownership of the begging ban.”

And he has the backing of the Mayor. “Horrific, appalling,” says the Mayor to the MP’s litany of offending in the CBD. “There should be zero tolerance.”

So has the begging bylaw has proved to be a fanciful piece of legislation that was destined to fail?

“I simply don’t believe that,” says Simon. “I think it’s a couple of things. In these PC times the police can be a bit PC, or worry about scope creep – it’s not their job, maybe someone else’s.”

Call it scope creep, but certainly the Mayor has drawn a line. “Law and order is clearly a police responsibility. We introduced a couple of bylaws we thought might help.”

But the bylaw doesn’t cover the criminal behaviour that comes on the back of begging. “If you have a problem with a light bulb you don’t call the plumber. Council does not cover criminal matters. The police do. I have to make that point because there’s confusion over who does what.”

Then there was the person who’d climbed onto the roof of a CBD building – an incident reported to Simon Bridges.

“Whether that’s drugs or alcohol, it’s serious. We know the council won’t be able to do anything, but we all have confidence in the police. I am absolutely calling on the police to do something.”

For the police it’s clearly a matter of demarcation.

Simon Bridges says everyone has faith in the police. “They do a great and tough job. But we need a safe CBD and I am calling on them to enforce the begging ban.”

He cites the Broken Windows programme in the New York of the 1990s to back his call. “If you want to get rid of the serious problem then you sweat the small stuff,” says the former Crown prosecutor.

Broken Windows was a metaphor for the initiative cracking down on begging, disorderly behaviour, public drinking, prostitution and unsolicited windscreen washing. And by dealing with the misdemeanours, police reduced felonies, or more serious crime, by 40 percent. And homicides by half.

“Broken windows is not just a theory, it works. And this stuff happening in the CBD is not small stuff. It’s big, aggressive males doing highly anti-social things. And if we let it go unchecked, we are inevitably going to see something much more serious happen. Either that or no-one goes into our CBD.”

Greg Brownless believes a police presence will fix things. He says police may not have the power because they haven’t got the manpower.

“But you can bet if they had a policeman in Willow Street the problem would go away.”

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10 Comments
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Here's an idea...

Posted on 08-06-2019 11:03 | By morepork

...instead of putting them in a warm cell for the night, why not manhandle them down to the harbour and chuck them in? Most of them seem to be terrified of water so it could be a very effective deterrent that only harms pride and dignity (not much of that for most of them) and costs the City nothing. I bet it would be effective... Change the local law to allow it.

It might be time...

Posted on 07-06-2019 21:36 | By GreertonBoy

To start hosing down the footpaths and shop fronts several times each night, in the name of cleanliness, of course?

.

Posted on 07-06-2019 15:00 | By tish

seems to work wherever the effort is made to allocate resources to implement it. Shame NZ is too busy wasting time and vast amounts of money on the "non-crime but we’ll make a big deal about it" nonsense to deal with the obvious and transparent criminal elements already inside the city and on the streets.

Idea

Posted on 07-06-2019 14:54 | By

The Police could make a video plea to beggars asking them to moderate their begging and give tips on how to consider other street users. Council are awash with money so they could provide workshops, complete with tea and biscuits, to play said video to these lost souls. Safer communities together. If only Kiwis could drive properly, then the Police could stop making videos and do some Policing.

Security Guard

Posted on 07-06-2019 14:00 | By Northboro

I understand the demarcation issue and perhaps a solution could be for Council to have a Security Guard on Willow Street who could initially deal with issues and if/when something appears illegal then the Security Guard contacts Police who can take over.

Makes you think, doesn't it

Posted on 07-06-2019 13:57 | By Lvdw

"...is Tauranga’s heart in danger of being relinquished to beggars, substance abusers and other undesirables?" Too late! Already done! "...has the begging bylaw has proved to be a fanciful piece of legislation that was destined to fail?" Umh hello, It has already failed. "...if they had a policeman in Willow Street the problem would go away" It sure would but where do you think it would go to? Hey Greg, try going to the library any day of the week. You can buy or partake in all sorts of drugs right at the bus stop - right across from the Community Policing office. The CBD is a joke, and one that is becoming more empty by the week.

It's no good...

Posted on 07-06-2019 12:57 | By morepork

...saying the Police must own it; we all need to own it. Police are already overstretched and their reluctance to police this is understandable. We need to increase Police numbers and get back to having regular beat patrols in the areas where this stuff is happening. At the same time, all of us need to step up. If you see someone being harassed, offer assistance and protect them. If a group of people arrive whenever this is going on it will have a clear message that the Community is not going to tolerate it. Once the offenders realize it will not go unnoticed, the behaviour will change. Serious things, like drug deals, should be reported to Police but general harassment can/should be handled by people in the area. People who choose to be outside the Community cannot be allowed to prey on the rest of us.

Street beggars.

Posted on 07-06-2019 12:27 | By

Read horrific story on beggars. I don’t care if they’re beggars or not. If they are behaving in a criminal manner, intimidating, asking for sex, following people to their cars, standing over folk at atms. That I would’ve thought it’s criminal behavior. Arrest them and deal with them as you would if they weren’t beggars. Don’t like the term beggars. They are bludgers and think they’re above the law. Police...sort it out before an innocent person is harmed.

Simple Simon strikes again

Posted on 07-06-2019 12:21 | By lpm67

Yes we have a serious issue. But council bylaws are enforced by council. National laws are enforced by police. The broken windows program is different because the US has differing levels of law enforcement from federal down to county level. The NYPD are the cities police force, not federal. They are federally enacted to enforce Federal level laws at most levels but they are paid by their ratepayers to enforce local laws (by-laws). Sorry if I haven’t explained it clearly. My suggestion would be for the council security service to deal with it and for the council to request more police presence on our streets as a deterrent.

As I predicted...

Posted on 07-06-2019 12:07 | By jed

I predicted the begging bylaw would fail. What can the cops do? Put them in a warm cell for the night, release them, and they return to the same spot. Maybe drive them up to auckland?