THE Opotiki police station went 24-7 last year but recent staff shortages means there are times when no Opotiki officer is on duty. Photo James Sandbrook OB4793-02

A NEW initiative has been implemented to attract police officers to Opotiki.

The Opotiki police station went 24-7 in July last year but recently staff shortages have meant there have been times when no Opotiki officer has been on duty, meaning any police response must come from Whakatane.

Acting area commander for Eastern Bay police, Inspector Stuart Nightingale, said there were currently three vacancies within the Opotiki police safety team.

The Opotiki station already attracted a “hard-to-fill allowance” similar to Kawerau and often there was police housing available, he said.

But given the continued challenges in recruiting police staff to both stations, recruiters had been allowed to offer a further incentive to prospective applicants.

Mr Nightingale said under the incentive scheme, if an applicant remained at Opotiki or Kawerau for two years, they could then apply to move to another location of their choice within the Bay of Plenty.

“This has attracted some interest and we are working through the details with the staff members concerned.”

Mr Nightingale said Eastern Bay police provided a 24-7 response with staff deployed across the district based on demand, including in Opotiki.

“As a district we monitor the workload of all our staff, right through the district, to ensure officers are deployed in the right areas at the right time,” he said.

“Police officers spend the bulk of their time out in the community, usually in their vehicles.”

He said the police prioritised their attendance at events based on several factors, such as the seriousness of the individual circumstances, vulnerability of the people involved, and potential for the incident to escalate.

“We are comfortable with how we have our staff deployed and are confident in how we prioritise our resources,” he said.

Mr Nightingale said the job of the police was to ensure that the community felt safe and was safe.

“While we’re always taking measures to ensure this, we need the community’s help too,” he said.

“Anyone who notices suspicious or concerning behaviour should report it to us by calling 111.”

Police officers were happy to speak with anyone who had concerns about incidents happening within the community.

“We encourage them to contact us,” Mr Nightingale said. “Community police stations are a place where locals can come and see police to report crime or suspicious activity.”

Petitioners ask for more police

OPOTIKI mayoral candidate Alex Dobie has started a petition aimed at increasing the police presence in Opotiki.

By yesterday afternoon, more than 740 people had signed the petition on the change.org website.

The petition, created on behalf of the people of Opotiki, asks the Minister of Police to direct sufficient police resources and personnel to the Opotiki community to ensure the police station is manned 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week.

Mr Dobie said he knew the Opotiki station had been a 24-7 station since last year but staff shortages meant not all shifts had been covered.

“If you go down to the police station after 5pm the doors are shut,” he said.

“And if you ring the Opotiki police station you’re most often switched through to Whakatane.”

sven.carlsson@thebeacon.co.nz