By RON AGNEW, Community policing as it used to be
There weren’t so many hard drugs around in Thames in the 1970s and 80s. So cannabis was the big deal for Police in those days; and an annual fly over of the peninsula by hired helicopter by Police occurred, with a constable lowered by winch to pull plants out. There were quite a number of plantations uncovered each year on the peninsula, with some plants well over 2 metres high. They were winched back up and flown back to Thames.
Because a prosecution was pending, I secured a quantity of very large plants in our storeroom at the old police station at 760 Queen St. It has internal bars and grills on all the internal doors (or used to!), and the outside window facing Queen St had solid bars over the window. Unfortunately, I placed the plants against the window that night.
The next morning, we found a car jack had prised all the bars apart, and had been used to smash the reinforced glass in. The plants were all missing, pulled out through the window! I thought afterwards, what a silly thing to do, to place them agains the window.
Some years there were too many plants to deal with. So we piled them all up out the back of Thames airfield, and with a little petrol, set fire to them. Made quite a fiew, although I don’t think we ever checked which way the wind was blowing to preclude the possibility of cannabis fumes and smoke wafting over and through Thames.
Funnily enough, we did have a wonderful and enthusiastic young co-ordinator at our Neighbour Support Group at Waikawau. He took all the reports from the locals up thee of suspicious activity.
Sadly, he was arrested the following year by the CIB for running a large cannabis growing and distribution operation from his small hill farm and three-storey house up there. It was so big, a special bush surveillance team came from Wellington to survey and film his operation to obtain the evidence. I think his home was taken under the proceeds of the crime legislation. He had so much cash, he didn’t know what to do with it all. There were empty sealed 20-litre paint containers of cash hidden around the farm, and in the wall linings of his home.
However, mostly our Neighbourhood Support Groups, created in town and through the area, worked well. We had wonderful co-ordinators in town and up the coast, and southwards too.
Elain Bycroft and Noel Mcfarlane helped me get Victim Support started in Thames. Their energy to the project was amazing and we ended up with a wonderful group of volunteers available for call outs from home all hours of the day and night to assist with fatal accidents, sudden deaths, homicides, etc. From memory, I think we had five homicides in one year, from the far north of the peninsula involving a hunter, to south of Waihī, involving a gang dispute.
Graeme Wood was a Victim Support volunteer, who served the community for decades in this role. We are so grateful to people like Graeme, who selflessly serve the community.
– Ron Agnew is a former Thames Police officer