On the beat

Sergeant Phil Bell - there are things people can do to prevent theft

New Zealand Police sergeant Phil Bell hasn’t been long at the North Hamilton Community Policing Centre.

But long enough, he reckons, to have a mountain of paperwork on his desk.

He joined the centre about two months ago, after three years as community sergeant in Dinsdale.

Working with him are two youth aid officers, a youth education officer and three community constables.

Together they look after about 9000 households, mostly in the eastern side of the city but taking in Rototuna, Puketaha and Gordonton areas.

Originally from the Waiarapa, he’s worked in Huntly, Upper Hutt and came to Hamilton in 2000.  Sergeant Bell has been with the police for 27 years, and says things are fairly busy.

“The hot commodities at the moment are laptops, game machines and TVs which can be easily sold on.  Most farmers don’t have lace curtains anymore, so don’t leave the laptop on the table, in full view of anyone peering in and wondering what they can take.”

The other hot items in the rural sector is scrap metal.  “They’ll go for big implements, like old trailers or harrows, stuff not often used and just sitting around.  They can get a few thousand dollars quite quickly that way by sending it off to the scrap dealers.”

Copper is also sought after.  “There have been incidents where the farmer will turn up to milk the cows and there’s no power.  Someone has taken the live power lines, between the road and the shed.”

He has been burgled himself, many years ago when living in Huntly.  “It wasn’t a nice feeling.  When I saw all the muddy footprints, I thought it was my messy flatmate.  They’d come through the garden, and got in the window.  I did all the fingerprinting and caught the guy.  But there are definitely things people can do to make it less likely.”

Having an alarm, preferably monitored, is a good idea.  “My advice is go for something suitably ear piercing.  This will put them off searching the house.  They might grab something, but they won’t hang around and do damage.

“Consider putting in security cameras, for both the home and farm.  It doesn’t take a lot to set up a decent camera and it can make a huge difference.”

Back in the 80s, police were urging householders to install alarms, which have been good.  “They work on the deterrent factor of the alarm going off and scaring the burglar off.  Possibly the neighbour looks across and gets a description of a car.  But it won’t generally give us anything else to go on.”

Cameras are another story.  “You can get a small, discreet camera and position it to get a shot of the face.  It doesn’t matter if they’re wearing hoodies. In the BNZ, for example, cameras are placed right next to the keypad, most people don’t know they are there.

“It’s the same thing in a household situation, getting the camera at face level.  Then we get images of the offenders doing their business.”

He’s very keen to see rural neighbourhood support networks set up – “There are a lot of informal groups, where people live on a road and might hold street barbecues and the like.  They’ll get together in these natural groupings, but all it takes is a little bit of formalising, and they can come under rural support.”

By doing so, they’ll get regular updates on what trends are developing, what to watch out for, and how to be crime preventative.”

Knowing what cars the neighbours drive is a help.  “So if something different turns up, you can jump on the telephone and check it out.  If it turns out to be the spider man, who is going to spray the house, that’s fine.”

The centre is open Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm.  All calls go through the main station, in Hamilton, which operates 24 hours.

“And during the day we have Di on the counter, who takes inquiries.”  Phone 858 6200.

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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