A group of volunteers has been patrolling the streets of the Timaru district since 1995, on behalf of the police. Timaru Community Patrol training officer Dennis Veal invited Courier reporter Greta Yeoman along for the ride on Friday night.
It is a crisp Timaru evening as Timaru Community Patrol volunteers Dennis Veal and Tony Agnew take to the streets.
They decide to head north in the patrol car to keep an eye on happenings in Temuka, and drive slowly up Evans St.
“We go slow so we can spot things,” Mr Veal explains, as they pull over to let vehicles behind them pass.
Their shift will run from 7pm until midnight, then others take on later shifts on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
“It’s about freeing up police resources,” he says of the service’s role.
The Timaru Community Patrol has been running since 1995
Local branch of the nationwide Community Patrols of New Zealand.
If you are interested in being part of the service, call Christine on 021 155-8639 or Julie on 027 351-5105.
Mr Veal has been part of the team for close to 15 years and now trains new volunteers.
The former school teacher says when he first signed up, he was asked if he knew any of the officers at the Timaru station. Nine of them were former pupils.
He says patrol duty is a “mixed bag”, with duties ranging from driving around keeping an eye out for trouble, to alerting residents to flooding or other risks, or keeping an eye on a crashed aircraft until aviation staff arrive.
His work has involved warning motorists of diesel on the road – caused by a group of boy racers who had decided to do burnouts at the Washdyke Junction – as well as alerting drivers to flooding in the Rangitata River.
“We still had to pull people out.”
Fellow volunteer Mr Agnew has been part of the crew for about seven years and says some people get confused about the role of the patrol vehicle, causing some interesting situations.
“People think it’s a taxi.”
Despite scouring Temuka’s streets with spotlights (placed on either side of the car for searching dark alleys) there is little trouble for the pair.
“[It is] all very quiet out there,” Mr Agnew says.
A watchhouse volunteer, based at the Timaru station, radios in to check with the duo, who are now back in Caroline Bay.
It is close to 9pm and the car swings past Timaru Hospital to check on staff changing shift at the Queen St site. However, it is a few hours too early, it seems.
Mr Veal says the volunteers have been asked to keep an eye on nursing staff when they leave their shifts, after reports of people hanging around the car park.
Just after 9pm, the patrol car pulls back into the North St station, when it is time for the team to have a quick cuppa and for me to depart, letting the volunteers get on with their evening of trouble-spotting.
Despite the lack of action this evening, many have rung in to thank the volunteer team for their work in keeping an eye out around town, Mr Veal says.
He hopes more residents may take an interest in volunteering with the service.