Whakatane community should still feel safe

Whakatane community should still feel safe

Bay of Plenty

Members of the Whakatane community should still feel safe and have the confidence to go about their day to day lives in the town, despite an incident where a four year old boy was approached and assaulted by a young man in a park.

Eastern Bay of Plenty Acting Area Commander, Inspector Greg Sparrow, says it was initially thought that the offender was a member of the Black Power gang. Police say the offender may not be a formal member of an adult gang, but a member of a "wannabe" youth group.

The incident took place at approximately 3:30pm on Thursday 6 May at Cutler Crescent Park in Whakatane. It was reported to Police on Friday afternoon.

The offender is described as a young male Maori, in his 20s. He is clean shaven with short black hair and approximately 170cm tall. He was wearing a blue T-shirt, black pants and blue bandannas.

"This was a terrible incident and no doubt it was frightening for the boy and his family and we are doing everything we can to locate this person and ensure he is held accountable.

"Regardless of whether the offender has formal gang connections or not, we do not believe that we have an escalating problem in our community.

"We will continue our policy of proactive policing in Whakatane – as we do across the Eastern Bay of Plenty – and maintain a high level of visibility around the town in an effort to prevent any further incidents."

Inspector Sparrow says Police are very aware of the intimidating nature of groups of youths or gang patches in public places, particularly in town centres and central business districts.

"We will be working closely alongside our local partners such as the Whakatane District Council, community groups, social agencies and iwi to ensure that together, we are all doing everything we can in this regard."

Whakatane Police will be making no further media comment at this time.

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Contact:

District Communications Manager
Jacky James
Phone: 07 343 1321