A regional initiative announced back in April to increase the police presence on trains is gaining momentum, with Lower Hutt police riding trains almost every day.
Each day, two to three constables from the police community engagement team usually jump on a train, check out the carriages and chat to passengers. Constable Paula Harris says the initiative started about six to eight weeks ago, with a training session from KiwiRail.
“We got taught basic safety stuff like how to move through carriages safely, holding onto the handrails,” she says.
Rail staff appreciate seeing police on trains, she says.
“They say sometimes they have problems on the Friday or Saturday night services with disorderly behaviour so we try and get onto those. For us, it’s an opportunity to raise our profile and be more visible. Public transport takes a lot of people everyday so it’s about getting used to seeing us, where people usually don’t.”
Though curious looks and questions of “Is something wrong?” were the most frequent reactions, Ms Harris and the team were hoping people would get used to the police presence and approach them if anything was needed.
In a recent survey conducted by Hutt City Council, 58 per cent of people said they felt at risk of being a victim of crime or sustaining an injury at train stations. And 51 per cent felt they were at risk on all public transport. A police presence, while rated below security wardens and better lighting, was listed as one of the top requirements for people to feel safer. Ms Harris was hoping to address that by having police on trains.
“It’s a chance to check out problems like tagging around stations.
“We get off at a station, have a look around, check for anti-social behaviour and get on the next train.”
Wellington Community Policing Manager Inspector Karen Smith says having police patrol the trains and platforms was a natural extension of the work they already do in the community.