How Invercargill Leads the Way in Community Crime Prevention

In the deep south of New Zealand, a thriving hub of crimefighters works together to make their community a better place through strong partnerships to prevent crime. Despite having a population of just 50,000, the city of Invercargill is home to a significant number of retailers preventing crime in their stores, working in partnership with local Police.

Staying true to our Partnership theme this month, we caught up with some of these crimefighters and asked them just what makes their partnership so successful.


The Strong Sense of Community

If there’s one underlying factor that defines the success of Invercargill, it’s the strong sense of community evident in the people who live and work there. Strong personal relationships  have helped create a cohesive community of crimefighters working to achieve a common goal.

Matthew Dobson: “We were given help through another store when we posted an offender in early January and within half an hour the name was added to the profile on Auror by another store. It alleviates the pressure on the police as well when you do almost all the work for them and have all the information right in front of them.”

Pia Leaf

Jackie Butler: “It’s just who you know really. We’ve got a good relationship with Briscoes and Rebel Sport because I know the manager there. We try to keep in contact with others as much as we can because people who steal here are probably stealing there. So it’s good to be in contact with them and know that they’ve got our back and we’ve got their back if they need to know something. Communicating with each other makes the relationship strong. That’s probably the biggest thing. That and the trust that we have with each other.”  

Pia Leaf: “Other retailers are really good, really approachable. We can give them a ring and say ‘hey we need help, can you identify this person?’ and they’re pretty good. If we can get other retailers onboard that would help us a lot more.”

Kylie Peel: “It’s probably the size of Invercargill to be fair. We’ve been in contact with each other, especially being a part of Foodstuffs with Pak’nSave and another New World not too far away. We try and get the word out to them to keep an eye out for certain people.”

Mike Hore: “Under our setup of the Neighbourhood Policing Team, we have a portfolio of the retailers, and keep them informed of what’s happening and who’s active offending. And we liaise between them to encourage them and encourage each other to work together, because it’s a community interface.”

Focus on Common Offenders

One of the most powerful ways retailers and police can work together is to use intel from incidents to identify repeat offenders and stop them before they have a chance to re-offend. Invercargill has really grasped this concept—in some cases even looking to other regions to know who may be heading in their direction.

Jackie Butler

Jackie: “We get shoptheft all the time. We’re a small town so there’s not many other shops here, so people tend to come here almost every day, that sort of thing.”

Kylie: “Jackie’s always very helpful. She knows quite a few of the people from the platform and she’s identified a few of our [offenders] via Auror.”

Matthew: “It is always good to know the people that are stealing at other shops, because they’re not isolated to one area are they? Especially with the proximity of the Invercargill region, everybody has a vehicle and access to the different markets, so I think going forward it may help prevent future thefts from happening in our store.”

Mike: “It’s a small enough environment that people get to know each other and that. And the businesses that are active are really good. We just sort of go between them and make sure everybody’s on track and let them know about anything we’ve spotted, or any active persons. Some people are just perpetual shoplifters and they’re the ones that we try to focus on and make sure everybody knows who they are.”

Matthew: “My favourite aspect of the Auror community is being kept up to date with what’s going on around the region. Getting to know the names of those that are repeat offenders and ensuring that our store detective knows just who they are and what they’re targeting.”

Kylie: “There were two offenders together late last year and all their information was on Auror. They had been in Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and then we were told they were possibly coming to Invercargill.  We kept an eye out for them and as we already had pictures and information we were able to identify them straight away.”

Mike: “(On the travelling shoplifters) Yeah, and that’s fabulous. We had them in the area pre-Christmas. They came in via Queenstown where they had been targeting meat.”

Successful Partnerships With Police

The Invercargill Neighbourhood Policing Team. Back row, L-R: Dave McLardy, Brock Davis and Mike Hore. Front row, L-R: Jacob Garett, Anthony Hogan

Invercargill Police have set up a dedicated resource in the Neighbourhood Policing Team that looks out for the retail community. That’s paid dividends in a particularly strong relationship with some of the stores in the region—which in turn can lead to better prevention outcomes.

Mike: “We have a good relationship because of the size of Invercargill and we have a Neighborhood Policing Team that focuses on retailers. They’ve got trust in us and they’ll come to us and tell us things and they know something’s going to get done about it. Further north, where there’s a larger volume of crime, retailers might might not be reporting it as much and the response time might not be as good. Whereas in Invercargill we try to get on things as soon as possible. If offenders get away with it in one place they’ll continue to do it.”

Matthew: “Our relationship with Police is very good. Our store detective has a relationship where if we have any thefts he will go down and give the information to them, as well as if we ever do need to call them in for trespassing they’re more than happy to come in. We have a very good relationship with them.”

Jackie: “Our relationship with the Police is really good. Mike Hore is our go-to man for everything, but we’ve built a really good relationship with a lot of them. They come in every couple days to have a yarn, ask ‘What’ve you got for us, what have you seen?’ or if we’ve got anything in particular. We’ll ask them about this person, do you know this person, because I’ve just updated it to Auror. And they’ll have a look or get somebody else to have a look and sort that out. They’re really good with us.”

Matthew: “The police are always very positive and understand where we’re coming from. I think attitude would probably be the main one that helps us to get on really well with them.”

Mike: “Be prepared to get as much information as you can from the incident and have it ready for us on Auror. That means knowing the product, knowing what was taken, how it was taken, so that we can then actually prosecute.

Southern Pride

Everyone is acutely aware of Invercargill’s size, which manifests in a shared commitment to working together to make their city a great one. There’s an evident sense of pride in knowing each other, which translates into a sense of responsibility for looking out for each other.

Matthew Dobson

Matthew: “I think the size of [Invercargill] has a lot to do with it. Because we only have five or six supermarkets in the Invercargill region, those people are visiting all our other stores too, so because we have a smaller population it allows us to actually see the offenders and gives us a better chance of actually knowing the offenders that are stealing at the other stores and stop them from doing it at ours.”

Mike: “We tried a few years ago to set up a similar system. It’s really great that now Auror has taken hold and that the businesses of Southland have embraced it and gone with it.”

Kylie: “We’re all pretty familiar with each other and we can email or give each other a call if we have any problems. We’re a little bit different to other cities, I’d say.”

It’s clear that the crimefighters of Invercargill appreciate the role they play in assisting each other in reducing offending in their region. With such a model of community and police partnership, Invercargill is a brilliant example of the outcomes that can be achieved. The question is: how can communities of crimefighters in larger cities replicate this model at scale?

Many thanks to the Auror community of Invercargill for their contributions—both to this article and for helping make their community safer. What makes your community special? Tell us and it could be featured next month!