Waipā mayor Susan O'Regan demands Government 'step up' after wave of crimes


Retailers are in a heightened state of anxiety in the lead-up to Christmas following a spate of crimes, including shots being fired at police, Waipa mayor Susan O'Regan says.

She is calling up central government to step-up and tackle the problem.

Police in the Waikato District are armed today after officers were shot at yesterday morning, following several crime incidents across Hamilton, Cambridge and Te Awamutu.

Waikato District Commander Superintendent Bruce Bird said there were three burglaries across the district, and then a group broke into a house in Te Awamutu, assaulting the people inside and stealing a car.

Four teenagers were arrested after the car theft, but while police were detaining the four another car drove past, and shots were fired at officers. Officers did not return fire because they were not armed.

Bird said police were looking for six more young people in connection to the shooting and other offending.

O'Regan, who presides over a district that includes Cambridge and Te Awamutu, told Morning Report there was growing concern across the district, and a sense central government was not doing enough to address the issue.

"There's obviously a heightened sense of anxiety and fear, particularly moving into this Christmas festive period.

"A lot of retailers are feeling like they really under siege. It's really a disgraceful turn of events to be fair, and one that's escalated quite steadily over the last six months."

O'Regan also said there had been an escalating sense of lawlessness and general increase in crime since COVID-19 lockdowns. Rural communities had also faced an increased number of burlaries, she added.

She described the perpetrators of these crimes as children of the meth generation, and traced increased crime to when the drug got a foot hold in communities around the district.

"Police will tell you that these these offenders are not strangers to them, and their families. I think if you look back historically, in our district, 14 -to-15 years ago, that's when regrettably methamphetamine sort of took hold in our area.

"I know that for a fact, having been our family court lawyer at the time."

The district was benefiting economically from tourism and agriculture, and those perpetrating the crimes were coming in from outside, O'Regan said. The council had invested in CCTV cameras to "ringfence" the district and allow an under-resourced police force to more easier identify those involved and act as a deterrent.

"We have every confidence that the police will use that information appropriately, once those are installed.

"We already have a reasonably thorough network, it's just a case of making sure that they all work in co-ordination."

O'Regan said it was a complex issue to address, but one that government needed to address and not local councils. She said her constituents needed protection.

"I'm calling for the government to actually step up address the issue. These are issues and precursors that are largely outside the ambit of local government. Really, it's up to the government, police and government agencies to find solutions to this.

"You've got failures of other family units, of schooling, social services, criminal justice system, drug and alcohol addictions, family harm, mental health, truancy - all issues that are creating a really ugly picture, and one that as mayor I'm not responsible for but sadly, our residents are having to bear the brunt of failure."