Keeping kids busy goes a long way to keeping them out of trouble – and the Bluelight programme run by Whakatane Police is certainly doing just that.
The region’s new Bluelight co-ordinator, Richard Hamer, took up the role 18 months ago and has re-invigorated the local organisation which had been in temporary hiatus.
Richard Hamer from Whakatane Bluelight
Whakatane Bluelight chairperson, Senior Constable Helen Hay, describes Richard as “an energizer bunny”. “He’s very enthusiastic and a real go-getter. He’s great at coming up with new ideas and taking an opportunity and running with it. He’s very passionate about the work we’re doing.”
Richard himself says he has a great Bluelight committee and group of volunteers who support him. “It’s a TEAM effort. And what fun I get to have – biking, roller skating and pool parties! When I now get asked ‘what did you want to be when you grew up?’ I respond ‘who I am: a Bluelight co-ordinator’.”
Bluelight is designed to foster a positive relationship between youth and police, reducing youth crime and building young people’s self-esteem and leadership skills along the way.
Helen says over the past 12 months Whakatane Bluelight has focused on introducing local youth to adventure-based activities.
“Often these children come from homes where outdoor activities aren’t really promoted. It’s exposing those children to what there is on offer. We’ve got so many options right on our doorstep – the beaches, the lakes, wonderful mountain bike tracks.
“So many young people get hooked up watching TV or playing on PlayStations that they don’t get the physical activity they need, especially boys. It’s just about keeping them involved in things.
“Hopefully through that it keeps them away from anti-social activities. There’s a lot of drug use in this area so keeping young people busy is key.”
Roller discos, kids fishing days, trips to the snow, kayaking, bike riding, surfing, interschool quizzes and Fear Factor challenges are just some of the events organised by Whakatane Bluelight this year.
Helen says school holiday activities like laser tag, pool parties, beach days and adventure walks are another important aspect. “These activities keep our children and youth busy during school holiday time which has previously been a time where we have seen an increase in youth offending either through boredom or lack of supervision.”
Feedback from local residents and kids has been fantastic, and Bluelight has attracted several new community volunteers.
Helen says Bluelight could not continue to provide these activities without the support of BayTrust who have this year granted $30,000 towards the programme.
“Whatever funding we get, the more activities we can do. Whakatane is a low socio-economic area, so this funding allows us to give local kids some opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise get.”
In 2016 Bluelight will launch two new initiatives – Wahine Toa and Gotcha.
The first has been trialed successfully by Bluelight organisations elsewhere and will target young teenage girls.
“Within police we see a lot of young girls who have been victims of abuse who then go on to become youth offenders themselves,” Helen says. “Wahine Toa is about helping promote their self-esteem through ‘feel good’ activities like pamper nights and fostering leadership skills to help get them back on track.”
Gotcha will see police hand out small rewards like ice-cream vouchers to young people who are behaving in a positive way.
“When we see young people doing good stuff, like cycling safely to school, we will give them a voucher to say ‘well done’.
“Quite often police are seen in negative situations, so we want to reward and acknowledge positive stuff as well.”