Manhunt could have been avoided if top cops listened to community needs, lawyer says
Years of withdrawing police from Feilding allowed a wanted man to escape, a justice advocate said.
Police have been stalking Shayden Hikaka-Beattie for five days after he slipped through their fingers on Sunday.
Hikaka-Beattie was driving a stolen vehicle in the town of Manawatū when police tried to stop him, but he escaped after firing a gun at them and a member of the public.
A single patrol car filled with two officers was parked in Feilding at the time, local and justice attorney Scott Guthrie said.
* Whānau urges the man at the center of the manhunt to surrender before it is too late
* Break in revives calls for a greater police presence in Feilding
* Youth and Maori top aspirations list for new best cop
If the two officers needed backup, they would have to wait at least 10 minutes for help from Palmerston North, which was more than enough to get away, Guthrie said.
“The public is not safe, and Sunday proved it.”
Two frontline officers reached out to Guthrie over the past week to express serious concerns over how Hikaka-Beattie escaped police due to the lack of officers stationed in the town.
“They told me the Sunday situation would have been brought under control if they had had the right number of employees.”
It is a problem that he has brought before the police and the government for years.
Manawatū District Council Mayor Helen Worboys met Inspector Sarah Stewart, Commander of the Manawatū region until December 2020, who assured her that the town would be properly covered when police were centralized in Palmerston North in 2018.
“They said to trust us. But I guess the proof is in the pudding.
Worboys said the type of crime the town is experiencing is getting harder and harder, and without its own police, unrest in the community is growing.
“There was a time when you couldn’t see a patch in Feilding, but you would now.
“We have almost 33,000 people in our district, our community deserves its own police. “
Ian McKelvie, national MP for Rangitīkei, said he spoke to Stewart on several occasions about the issues facing the city, but all concerns he had conveyed to her fell on deaf ears, did he declare.
McKelvie said community members constantly emailed, called and walked to his office worried and felt unsafe by the lack of officers stationed in their town.
“It’s upsetting for people and it affects public confidence.
“The police presence is important and if they don’t have the resources, it’s a challenge. “
The structure in place for the police was not satisfactory, he said.
“Seeing what types of crime we see in Fielding and having to call Palmerston North Police is pretty frustrating.
“I think the police on the ground are doing a great job, but I think it’s unfortunate that they lack resources.”
McKelvie said he would write to Poto Williams, the Minister of Police, in an attempt to show that the size and structure of Feilding’s police force needs to be addressed.
The Central Police District has seen a 35% increase in the number of gang members over the past four years, from 492 in October 2017 to 667 registered by police in April 2021.
Simeon Brown, National Police spokesperson, said the increase in gang activity has been seen across the country.
Gangs have grown by up to 50% in the regions, with Northland the only one remaining stagnant.
“We are seeing more and more gangs feeling emboldened and I don’t think the government is taking a tough enough position. “
The government has pledged to provide 700 additional gang and organized crime officers over the past three years, but so far only 250 have been deployed across the country for tactical purposes.
Due to the need to redirect resources to managed isolation facilities, the promise has been put on hold, but with the increase expected to maintain its traction, more needed to be done to address the issue New Zealanders are facing. faced every day, he said.
“There is a lack of confidence that the police will be able to handle these situations.
“New Zealanders feel less secure and they want the government to keep its promises.”
Guthrie said the lack of police in Feilding allowed gangs to take hold in the town.
Mongrel Mob, Black Power, Hells Angels and Head Hunters roam the streets freely with their patches exposed, scaring residents, he said.
“Feilding wants the police, and we’ll have the police. “
Police have been approached for comment, but have yet to respond by the deadline.