Police take firearm reporting ‘extremely seriously’ amid frequent incidents
Police are reassuring the people of Manawatū their communities are safe despite frequent firearm incidents in the region.
Between February and March there were a series of firearm incidents, including a gun being pulled on a pizza delivery driver and a local primary school going into lockdown while police responded to a firearm event.
At the time, Manawatū mayor, Helen Worboys said the incidents were “scary” and fuelled feelings of vulnerability in the community.
However, Manawatū area commander, Ross Grantham said the majority of the time these incidents were minor and not at the level people were seeing overseas.
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Information released under the Official Information Act (OIA) showed that during a 28-day period from February 15 to March 15 Manawatū recorded 21 firearm incidents.
The similar sized regions of Taranaki and Tasman had 12 and 20 incidents respectively.
Since then, reports of firearm incidents have continued in the region.
In April, a toy gun was pulled on an Kmart employee at the Plaza in an act of intimidation. At the time, the young staff member didn’t know that it wasn’t real.
And in May, there was an incident at the Highbury Shopping Centre which saw multiple people arrested after a firearm altercation.
But Grantham said while numbers might seem high it’s not always as bad as it seemed and the offending was not always at the “higher end of the offending spectrum”..
“More often than not, they’re at the lower end of the spectrum of offending. Some kids running around with a BB gun or a paintball gun,” Grantham said.
He didn’t want to minimise the fear firearm incidents evoked for people, especially given the coverage of gun violence overseas, but said police took firearm reporting “extremely seriously” and were working “really, really hard” to reduce these offences.
“We will always take reporting firearm offences extremely seriously and will respond accordingly, and try and reassure them [the public] that it’s not as bad as perhaps we fear or see in the media.”
Grantham maintained that part of the reason people were fearing firearms and saw growth in firearms reporting and offences was, in part, because of what was seen internationally.
“We’re tainted with what we see, so that if I have a fear about firearms in my community and I see the media from overseas, social media and some of our own local reporting, it adds to my fear.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean there is more crime and firearm related crime, but it does add to my fear.”
However, Worboys said the numbers were “worrying”.
“We had that gun incident with a guy that got shot, not too long ago here in Feilding and, you know, that really scares older people and the people in that neighbourhood.”
Worboys was referring to an incident in April, where Feilding man Darren Lyttle was shot by police after an eight-hour stand-off at his property on Seddon St.
Police were called to his property after Lyttle fired shots at his neighbours.
Worboys was sick of all the crime happening and considering writing up mayoral declaration to let the Government know that, whether reported or unreported, the community had had enough with recurring crime and the impact it put on police who were already under-resourced.
She said this year has been “terrible” for firearm related incidents and continued to ask what the community could do to keep safe.
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Family sociologist and demographer for Te Herenga Waka Victoria University Kate Prickett said she understood how a community could be fearful of reported gun violence, especially if they associated it with the more extreme events seen overseas.
Prickett, the director of the Roy Mckenzie Centre for the study of families and children, said gun violence could result in people feeling so unsafe they stopped participating within their community.
But the majority of the research came from the US, which had more frequent, high-end violence, she said.
But if gun violence became the “new normal” in New Zealand the same impacts could be felt, she said.
But Grantham reassured the public police were doing everything they could when it came to firearm events and more often than not, most incidents were not “true offences under the Arms Act”.
He said the implementation of the firearm registry, which comes into effect on Saturday, June 24, would bring “enormous benefit” for the security and tracing of firearms in New Zealand, especially in relation to firearm crime.