Concerns over Greerton ‘gangsters'

Café Essence (pictured) and Greerton Lotto each had their windows damaged earlier this year.

Greerton retailers who took a long list of complaints to the city council about “gangs of feral beggars infesting the shopping precinct”, were given a different view of their situation by Western Bay of plenty area commander Police Inspector Clifford Paxton.

Analysis of the 36 calls police have received to Greerton over the last four months reveals 80 per cent of the calls are related to social issues not criminal offences, says Clifford speaking at the city council Community and Culture meeting on Tuesday. 

“What we are seeing in Greerton is not necessarily unique to Greerton,” says Clifford.

“There were three or four calls last week to similar incidents right across the Western Bay of Plenty, where groups of people are moving into the area and some of our community members are feeling vulnerable and quite unsafe.

“The challenge is in determining what is the behaviour or actions that are occurring, and what is being labelled in relation to homelessness or begging, or gang related.”

Once police get involved what they are seeing is not necessarily what they were called for, says Clifford.

“I think that’s why we need to be careful around how we label. How we cast aspersions relating to some groups. What we find is sometimes it creates a lot of noise, but does not necessarily identify the behaviour or the actions we’re trying to address underneath.”

He was speaking after a number of Greerton retailers related incidents and behaviour that has grown over the last year to the point, where one says he’s going to leave if there is no change over the next ten months.

Another retailer says three staff have left over recent months but she won’t have to replace all of them because customer numbers are also dropping.

They blame the gang of ‘feral beggars’ that is intimidating customers, bullying and threatening staff, and using stand over tactics to take medication off elderly customers.

One retailer didn’t want her name used because of the impact the publicity may have on her business.

“What we are talking about today are not the needy or homeless,” says the retailer.

“This gang thrives off intimidation and stand over tactics. They are described by the public as irrational and feral. They are far from needy.

“They are taking advantage of Greerton Village’s most vulnerable and the retailers here are on the front line seeing this every day.”

Over the past five years, the business enjoyed a stable staff and annual growth. Now staff are leaving and customer numbers are dropping off.

The retailer is concerned about public safety. The beggars are asking elderly and vulnerable customers for their medication. Customers on crutches get hassled on the street for their pain meds.

“We have reports from elderly customers who have lost their medication only to later admit that they have given it to the gang,” says the retailer.

“One elderly lady had a gang member standing behind her car and another tapping on her window. She felt so she had choice but to hand over their tablets.

“These customers are left feeling embarrassed, used, and scared. Some are too ashamed to admit what has happened, and go without their medication.”

Dan Hughes at Copyman in Greerton Road says there are often large numbers of people shouting and creating a lot of noise outside his business.

“We have witnessed fights erupting from said talking,” says Dan.

“The ambient noise levels raised right up, shouting, talking. A lot of it is quite vulgar. A lot of swearing, fights.

He’s been having customers arriving in the shop visibly upset and frightened by the people.

Another business owner, who didn’t want to be named, says the gang also takes the cards off elderly customers and uses the paywave.

“We need to wind the clock back six years ago to when I arrived,” says another retailer. “We need our customers to feel safe.”

Tauranga City Council has installed four new security cameras in Greerton, and employed two security guards who patrol during business hours and also gather data about incidents on the street.

It has introduced a ‘Your Help may Harm’ campaign to discourage giving to beggars. Retailers say the beggars pull the signs down when they can.

There is a staff member talking to the people on the street to get their story and refer them to appropriate social services. Retailers hopes in the council’s anti-begging bylaw may be unfounded.

Cr Larry Baldock says there are human rights issues preventing the council from introducing a bylaw that has a blanket ban on begging.

“It may be a breach of the Bill of Rights to ban begging anywhere,” says Larry.

Retailers say they will be happy with a bylaw that bans begging with 10m of a business doorway.

Clifford says at the moment most of the issues fit in the social framework not the police framework.

Even the 20 per cent of incidents that relate to offences do not always result in prosecution because they do not reach the threshold.

“At the end of the day if we can’t change the behaviour of these people and address the drivers of some of this offending, we are destined to repeat the same thing. We are going to keep getting called back time and time again without there being any noticeable change,” says Clifford.

“The question for us as a community is how do we start to address that? How do we start to change that? And what do we do to try and get the outcomes that we want for this community?”

 

Greerton homeless man TJ in Chadwick Road today in a balmy 6 degrees. Photo: Andrew Campbell


21 Comments

Beggars be gone?

Posted on 25-04-2018 19:22 | By Captain Hottie

Went into Greerton a couple of times last week. No beggars - and lots of signs on the shops telling people not to give money to them because it just adds to the problem. Now I don’t know whether the signs have done their job, or because it’s school holidays the beggars have had to stay home and parent their kids - or maybe all the road works have done for them!

Greerton is a Ghetto

Posted on 13-04-2018 04:00 | By BennyBenson

Stopped going there years ago. I travel further for shopping rather than slum it in Greerton and I definitely wouldn’t use an ATM there, likely to get mugged. What is Tauranga coming to? Used to be a lovely city.

They're not after jobs

Posted on 12-04-2018 19:50 | By Calm down

I offered one of these guys a lift to my work for a job interview instead of giving him money as he insisted he was only begging until he gets a job. His response was "nah but can you buy me a coffee? Mocha two sugars please."

Gangsters

Posted on 11-04-2018 21:40 | By Ness

Gangsters more like losers come on NZ lets get hard on this type of primate behaviour

to Bruja

Posted on 11-04-2018 19:56 | By old trucker

My thoughts on this is, a MP says there are over 10,000 over stayers here, NOW if they got rid of them we would have enough to go around, (maybe) but at least this is a start,(BUT) THEY are not looking for them as they dont have the money,Mr muldoon had the Gu--ts to have raids on these Over stayers and hunt them off shore next day, SURELY WINZ etc could look into that ,(but hangon) They cannot get out,as its always locked,as you can only get in if you have appointment,or a BLUDGER,this is only my thoughts on this subject,And the WINNER is Sunlive, No1 for News,Thankyou. 10-4 out. phew.

NOT OK

Posted on 11-04-2018 14:48 | By jeancraven@kinect.co.nz

This is PC gone mad again. Intimidation is unacceptable in any form by anyone whether they are gangs, homeless or beggars.

.

Posted on 11-04-2018 14:19 | By whatsinaname

dont wait for jobs to come to them, get out there and look. there are plenty out there.

Busy doing nothing

Posted on 11-04-2018 14:08 | By maildrop

The usual book passing / not my job / we don’t have the power crap from the Police and TCC. Both Gold medal winners at the Inept Games. Wait until someone gets hurt and amazingly they will find they do have the power and the rubbish will be cleared in a flash.

Another solution

Posted on 11-04-2018 13:59 | By lpm67

Perhaps the area commander could encourage police in the Bay of Plenty to get some exercise walking around shopping centres/communities. Presence has a detering effect and makes shoppers feel more comfortable and safe

hang on a minute

Posted on 11-04-2018 13:39 | By old trucker

Did i not see a front page on local paper saying there is 14,000 jobs out there Packhouses are screaming for staff and these LAZY SO AND SOs sit there its very UNFAIR,SURELY they could get a job,there should not be one person on dole - benefit in TGA in Kiwi fruit season, maybe WINZ does not care,my pennies worth for what its worth,Sunlive Thankyou, 10-4 out. phew.

People should

Posted on 11-04-2018 13:38 | By Peaches

Carry and hand over laxtives.

Trust

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:59 | By rastus

If we cannot trust those who’s job it is to represent theit constituents in keeping the peace and civilized order, then who can we trust - people such as Baldock should spend more of their time providing for those who pay his wages rather than trying to find reasons not to precipitate real action against these low lifes

Human rights?

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:44 | By morepork

There is no moral or legal right for Humans to intimidate and rob people. Begging in NZ is unnecessary and none of the people in Greerton have any idea about real poverty. These are people who have decided to adopt a way of life that suits them and they have no respect or regard for the rights of others. We SHOULD ban begging and take our chances with the Court of Human Rights. In the meantime, if no-one gives them money they will realize it is futile.

Greerton is not unique

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:33 | By Lvdw

The Tauranga CBD also has a prolific beggar problem, with a new ’family’ group of 5 adults & 2 dogs move into Red Square about a week ago, cannabis smoking included. I’ve watched pedestrians give them all a wide berth when walking through that area. There have also them wondering down the back of buildings into the parking area, happily urinate right in front of me then become combative when something is said. There are some shops that I now avoid because the beggars are always loitering outside. What is that doing to their profits? Yes, there is definitely no quick fix, nor one fix for all, but as dumbkof2 states, there is absolutely no need for begging in NZ. Goodness knows we pay enough taxes to fund the services they can make use of.

Greerton is not unique

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:33 | By Lvdw

The Tauranga CBD also has a prolific beggar problem, with a new ’family’ group of 5 adults & 2 dogs move into Red Square about a week ago, cannabis smoking included. I’ve watched pedestrians give them all a wide berth when walking through that area. There have also them wondering down the back of buildings into the parking area, happily urinate right in front of me then become combative when something is said. There are some shops that I now avoid because the beggars are always loitering outside. What is that doing to their profits? Yes, there is definitely no quick fix, nor one fix for all, but as dumbkof2 states, there is absolutely no need for begging in NZ. Goodness knows we pay enough taxes to fund the services they can make use of.

The Major Problem is GREED!!!!

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:30 | By Bruja

When you can see people on Facebook advertising their caravan and awning for rent for $325 per week THAT IS THE PROBLEM in a nutshell! Sheer, unadulterated GREED is killing this country. Ordinary working people are in REAL HARDSHIP trying to meet DISGRACEFUL rental charges and HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Kiwis are HOMELESS. Getting back to SANITY in the housing market and most of our ’problem people’ will disappear overnight because the whole disgusting insane property market is BROKEN and it’s shredding our society. YES there is most definitely a ’need’ for begging in this country! Sort the housing market and you’ll sort the poverty and homelessness and begging.

Conned

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:27 | By Told you

The people on the streets need to be investigated as to there true status as been homeless, I would say in some cases it is a con to solicit money.

The intimidation's getting worse

Posted on 11-04-2018 12:24 | By SML

What really gets up my nose is that Greerton is supposedly a alcohol-free zone! So, driving carefully on my mobility scooter, I’m abused by one of the "homeless beggars", with can of Codys in hand, who back into me (and I’m stopped!), and I complain to one of the security guards about abuse & alcohol, they just laughed and said "they all do it!" Not good enough! It’s getting darn dangerous for the elderly and disabled in their own, once-peaceful, suburb. As many of these "feral homeless beggars" get dropped into the Village by car or van from outside the Greerton area, to cause such disruption, surely the Police can enforce the alcohol ban, and trespass the troublemakers?

Funny comment Dumbkof2

Posted on 11-04-2018 11:57 | By CC8

These people have already been there and taken advantage of everything they can, the "begging" is how they get around the "working" and " earning" provisions of Work and Income agency.Work and Income should be down there with Police taking names and checking against benefits. A bunch of photos fed back into the system would save the country thousands a day.

Grow some stomach muscles!

Posted on 11-04-2018 11:25 | By Kaimai

Larry Baldock, begging may not be a crime, intimidation may not be a verifiable crime but it is anti social, it is unpleasant and it is not the Greerton community. Mr Paxton, replace your blue uniform and go for a wander in Greerton or even better drop your mother / grandmother off in Greerton for a wander to the Post Office, the bank or the pharmacy.

beggars

Posted on 11-04-2018 10:57 | By dumbkof2

there is no need for begging in nz. there are stacks of help agencies that these people can go to

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