Joy Johnson knows there are many reasons why rural residents don’t bother to call police when a burglary occurs or stock goes missing.
“They think it’ll take police too long to get there. And if it’s cattle or stock removal, what evidence would there be for the police to find? It’s that sort of mentality,” says Taupo’s long-serving Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator.
“In many cases they haven’t locked the house when they’ve gone up to the cowshed, or they’ve left the keys to the quad bike sitting in the vehicle. So they won’t bother reporting burglaries because they know their insurance won’t pay out anyway.”
Building Rural Networks
Joy is currently working hard to set up more Neighbourhood Support groups in rural areas between Mangakino, Reporoa and Taupo itself. Since heavy snow blanketed the Napier-Taupo State Highway in 2016, the need for more support in rural areas has become apparent.
“We’ve now partnered with Civil Defence to run educational workshops with rural groups to encourage people to prepare for emergencies and get to know their neighbours better. If your power is out or you’re isolated for a few days, it’s helpful to know who might have first aid skills or a nursing background,” she says.
Connecting the Dots
Joy is also encouraging rural residents to report all crime so patterns can be established.
“I had a phone call from a gentleman last year about some stock that had gone missing. When I made enquiries with police, I found they had attended three similar calls over that time. It was quite a lot of stock which had been taken altogether.”
All three farmers subsequently joined Neighbourhood Support, have gotten to know their neighbours, and learnt how to secure their property better.
“They used to wave hello to each other but they didn’t really know what vehicles lived on each farm,” Joy explains. “But if you know who lives there and what cars they drive you can take more notice of those odd ones. By writing down a registration plate of a vehicle you don’t know, you can help resolve a crime.”
Extra Funding Support
Taupo’s Neighbourhood Support needs $48,000 a year to operate which comes from a mix of national funding, local business and community support. BayTrust has just granted $10,000 which Joy says will be used to run more rural workshops and continue liaising with the 516 individual Neighbourhood Support groups already established around Taupo.
“Ten thousand dollars is magic because it allows us to keep working with these rural communities in particular. I’m delighted to be able to settle in and do some work and not have to worry about where the next dollar is coming from. We’re very grateful to BayTrust.”
Despite joking she is “well over retirement age”, Joy works from 9am – 4pm weekdays out of Taupo Police Station. Her well-established Neighbourhood Support network covers 5452 local homes. “For a place the size of Taupo I’m very satisfied with that number.”
Her mission is to make homes, streets and communities safer and more caring places to live. She emails out a weekly crime report and teaches locals what they should look for in their neighbourhoods. “If their gut feeling tells them something’s wrong, it generally is.”
To celebrate ‘Neighbours Week’ Joy is also planning a public event on March 25 to encourage people to meet local police officers and other groups like Taupo’s Violence Intervention Network.
“It will be great to get everyone together and make people aware of what they can do to help themselves and their neighbours. I really enjoy meeting people and the friendliness we’ve created across this town. I love it.”