Arrest after principals report on ‘squatters’


REPORTS of underage drinking, graffiti attacks, verbal abuse of neighbours, assaults, throwing rocks and leaving rubbish in Somerville prompted a fast response from Hastings police.

Senior Sergeant Warren Francis-Pester met with Hastings MP Neale Burgess last week after Mr Burgess was told by the principals of Somerville Secondary College and Somerville Rise Primary School about anti-social behaviour on school property. They blamed a group of six “squatters” in the wetlands behind the two schools for the offences.

While patrolling the problem area, Saturday 10 October, as part of the new Operation Miscreant, Hastings police spotted eight youths drinking. The group fled, but officers managed to grab one youth who allegedly resisted arrest and assaulted officers before running off.

The police visited nearby bottle shops to check CCTV footage in an attempt to identify the offender. They then rushed to Somerville Recreation Centre after hearing reports of trouble and found the youth who they claim had previously assaulted them.

Senior Sergeant Francis-Pester said the offender again resisted arrest but, after a struggle, he was taken to Hastings police station and interviewed with one of his parents present.

The 17-year-old was charged and bailed to appear before a children’s court charged with four counts of resisting an emergency worker, two of assaulting an emergency worker, one of refusing to give his name and address and one count of consuming liquor under age.

His bail conditions include living at home, not going within 50 metres of Somerville Rise Primary School, Somerville Secondary College or the surrounding wetlands, and to be at home 8pm-8am unless attending work or accompanied by a parent.

The police are making further inquiries in their efforts to identify the other offenders.

Senior Sergeant Francis-Pester said the outcome was a perfect example of when people in the community work together by passing on information. “Outstanding results can be achieved in serving and protecting our community and prosecuting persons who offend,” he said.

“Operation Miscreant is a Hastings police permanent operation which is intelligence driven from the community to deal with local issues. It’s already bearing some impressive fruit.

“There is a culture among police that there is no greater privilege than to be in the service of the community, so it is always disturbing when one of my members is assaulted in service of the public.

“In these pandemic times, this type of offending is even more outrageous. I am certain that our magistrates will take a dim view of this type of conduct.”

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 20 October 2020


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