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March 10, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Policing the Wellington Night

Despite Wellington’s café dwelling art appreciating ‘cultured’ reputation, the 2006 crime statistics have Wellington taking out the top spot for reported rapes in New Zealand. Recently Wellington has been portrayed in various media as a danger zone with an increasing level of violent crime. Salient feature writer Jenna Powell recently spent two nights on the beat with local police officers on the mean streets of Wellington. Here she reports on the various types of crime they faced.

Car Crime

It was raining badly when Sergeant Morris informed me that because of the weather drunken disorderly student crime would be at an all-time low, even on the last Saturday of O-week. “It will be mostly crime and accidents involving motor vehicles.” He was right. A car travelling on a road near Happy Valley took a corner too fast and flew off a bank with a 120 metre drop into a river. As we arrived one of the police officers noticed two men running across the field. The atmosphere was fairly casual as we approached the semi-submerged wreckage from the crash. We all assumed the people we saw running were the drivers of the car and therefore relatively unharmed. Police officer constable Hodson proceeded to check the wreckage for signs of life. A witness to the crash said “I hope no one’s in there… the car went flat tack off the side.”

“Fuck” Hodson exclaimed several minutes later. There was an 18 year old male trapped inside the car to the extent it took quite an investigation to even see the corner of his white hoodie. The call was made back to base and I was impressed with the speedy reply of two ambulances and a fire engine arriving within three minutes of the initial call. After some confusion over whether the man trapped was the driver it was concluded by Sergeant Morris that he was in fact driving without a seatbelt and the huge impact of the crash knocked him to the back of the vehicle where he remained trapped with a massive head injury and a crushed leg. Fire fighters had to cut the car open with saws and axes to retrieve him. They also, as a group, had to lift the car off his leg to be able to move him safely. “That’s what they do. They are the heroes” remarked Sergeant Morris. He added “we [the Police] are here to assess the criminal side of the accident.”

What struck me about all of this was ‘ho-hum’ casualness of the police, fire-fighters and paramedics. Although they were fast and efficient as they worked their manner could almost be described as jovial. I was feeling so nauseous I could barely stand but this was obviously much tamer compared to other things emergency workers see. Even the tow truck company that towed the wreckage away were light hearted and chatty. Sergeant Morris described the casual atmosphere as a “coping mechanism.” Serious motor vehicle crashes are not a rare occurrence in Wellington and the greater area. Over half of all fatal crashes involve people between the ages of 14 and 24 (usually males). “A lot of younger people sometimes don’t know how much speed a corner can take on wet conditions.” The last update the police had of the victim in the crash was that “he was alive.”

Another prevalent crime that night was grand theft audio. Four males were arrested for ‘breaking and entering’ cars with the intent of stealing valuables. Their defence was that although they were stealing things, the cars they were looting were in fact already broken into… somehow. Officers did not seem convinced by this story. Later that Saturday evening a car was stolen and driven to Red Rock where it was “burnt out.” The offenders also thought it necessary to steal a nearby quarry tractor and go on a joyride. They took the tractor through what looked like a couple of fences and crashed it, fences in tow, into a creek. Although Sergeant Morris was slightly amused by this he was firm in his belief “that this kind of petty crime takes up a lot of police resources and time.” Darryl agreed stating “something really dangerous could be happening and we are out here pissing around with tractors.”

Young Drunken Females

Wednesday night saw an abundance of teary-eyed drunken girls dressed up to the nines and having very public meltdowns. There is something quite sobering about seeing a girl in stilettos and a tight fitting dress crying while she lies sprawled out on the footpath near Manners Mall. She had a history of mental illness so Constable Nick Simcox said it was important for her “to be off the street in case she does something crazy and dangerous.” Walkwise had spotted her several minutes beforehand aggressively yelling about how “she was going to kill everyone.” The female ‘walk wiser’ was very understanding and calmed the girl down so when we arrived she was just sobbing uncontrollably and muttering under her breath.

It soon became apparent that she didn’t like me very much as her eyes often glanced towards me as she muttered things like “Who’s that?” and “There are bad people here.” Despite her obvious feelings about me I couldn’t help but feel for the girl who was obviously distressed and very unhappy. Constable Katy Keedwell managed to convince her to come to the station where she would be assessed by a psychologist in due course but until then Officers Simcox and Keedwell would have to baby sit her.

So, I was off with Hudson and Lions again only to be called to another inebriated hysterical female. Her and her boyfriend were walking down Kent Terrace when they had an argument about “couple stuff.” The woman then decided to sit and cry in the middle of the road. By the time we caught up to them her boyfriend had managed to get her to the corner of Kent Terrace and Courtney Place where she sat in the gutter and bawled. Hodson emphasised the importance of getting her out of the street so she does not put herself in danger by wandering off by herself or going on the road again. Stanley said there seems to be an “It’ll-never-happen-to-me attitude” among young women in Wellington who walk off by themselves at night. “It is especially dangerous when they have had a bit to drink.”

When asked by Constable Lions if he could help her she cried desperately “No not unless you can make my boyfriend love me!” She then added “If there was a pill I could take to make him love me I would.” She went on to describe how her boyfriend “wants to fuck other girls” and that she “cries [herself] to sleep every night.” Both officers were very kind to her and tried to explain they were there to help. “I know I can’t fix this but we need to get you home,” Hodson suggested. After a few more tears and curses she was up out of the gutter and in her older brother’s car.

Recently the media has displayed a moral panic surrounding the alcohol consumption of young women. When asked if he encounters a lot of drunk females in situations like what unfolded on Wednesday night Constable Hodson’s reply was “Yeah we see a fair few.” Officer Katy Keedwell believes “Young drunk females are in general harder to deal with than males,” because they are “more stubborn” and in general “more maggot.”

Students

Although the rain was thick and plentiful on Saturday night it didn’t deter some ‘hardcore’ students from having some alcohol-fuelled fun. A party in a Hanson Street flat (Mount Cook) received 30 noise complaints, and two youthful Courtney Place drinkers thought it wise to bottle a police car.

On Wednesday night the pleasures of an unmarked police car were revealed to me when watching the shocked face of a student as the siren sounded. He then tried to look like he was not drunkenly dragging a road cone home. Wellington’s lowlevel crime – disorderly behaviour, property damage, motor vechicle conversion and minor theft – has a primarily youthful face.

Fights, Assaults and Domestics oh my!

In the way of disorder and potential violence, Saturday night brought an incident at Lyall Bay. The incident, which started as a domestic, looked as if it was going to turn into an all-out brawl as conversation between the police and the family got heated. “I didn’t say anything about my fucken cousin” a young women screamed as her cousin was arrested. After this incident I enquired what the officers thoughts about tasers. I got a range of responses from “there is a huge gap between pepper spray and guns” to simply that “they are awesome.”

The first job assigned to constables Katy and Nick on Wednesday night involved removing a male from Molly Malones because he had previously got aggressive with the bartender. In the early hours of last Sunday morning he had threatened to kill the bartender by slitting his throat. The suspect in question came quietly but protested he had no recollection of the incident.

Later that night a fight broke out between neighbours on Mount Victoria. It was a case of the “he said she said.” A group of students said he brandished a knife out his car window but he is adamant what they all actually saw was a V can. His car was then searched for a knife but a marijuana pipe was found instead. “What’s this then?” asked constable Owen. “Yes it’s a pipe… but it’s a very small pipe,” he said defensively. A small bag was also seized but the owner of the pipe insisted it was tea from Cosmic Corner.

Bail Breach

A male was arrested in Manners Mall for breach of bail on Wednesday night. His bail condition was that he stayed away from Manners Mall due to his recent disorderly behaviour. But there he sat “proud as punch” in the middle of Manners Mall. “Fuck the Po-lice” he exclaimed loudly as Constable Nick put the handcuffs on him. “You’re a faggot nah you’re a faggot” he yelled back at Constable Owen.

After an eye-opening two days I realised the main objective of policing is crime prevention. Most of the actions of the officers were to prevent violence and the endangerment of people and property. The officers I accompanied stopped incidents of crime escalating rather than just arresting the people involved. I will not go as far to say the police force are perfect but I was definitely impressed.

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  1. WestSide Crips says:

    Jenna Powell is a shizzle my Nizzle. Her writing is soo dope! In my hood none of the bitches can write like her (Bitches in the non derogitory gangsta way)! That shit is whack y’all!
    Word to your Mother!

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