Civic activism, citizen-led policing and the future of community crime prevention in New Zealand

Trevor Bradley1
1Victoria University Of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Over the past decade New Zealand has witnessed a remarkable growth in ‘civic activism’ and the use of community volunteers to perform duties once the sole preserve of the police. Indeed, in many local communities, particularly those outside the main metropolitan centres, it is volunteers that are the primary source of capable guardianship and visible deterrence and who perform the patrols once routinely provided by their public police partners. Their contribution is an increasingly important part of police capability. Volunteers have for a long time assisted police through involvement in victim support services and neighbourhood watch type schemes. More recently, however, the roles performed by volunteers have expanded significantly. In addition to patrolling public space, volunteers now also monitor police and local authority administered CCTV networks, provide security and related stewarding duties at large scale sporting and cultural events and assist with civil emergencies. The growth and expanded role of volunteers has been carefully nurtured by police and other government agencies through the strategic use of formal partnership agreements. Moreover, by controlling the distribution of central government crime prevention funding, the police are increasingly directing the development and deployment of these ostensibly autonomous groups.

This paper reports the findings of on-going research on the extending policing family in New Zealand. It charts the growth and expansion of volunteer involvement in policing, the financial and operational relations between volunteer bodies and police and considers the implications and likely impacts of New Zealand’s much increased reliance on ‘civic activism’ on the futures of policing and community crime prevention.

Dr Trevor Bradley is a Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Criminology, Victoria University of Wellington. He is currently involved in an on-going research programme focused on the extending policing family in New Zealand. His research interests include plural policing and crime prevention and community safety.


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