It’s a ‘frightening place’

Waiting for the bus on Willow Street is often a daunting experience. Photo: John Borren.

A Tauranga man is speaking out on behalf of residents who are tired of feeling scared and intimated at the Willow Street bus terminal.

The terminal is a popular hangout spot and people have been seen drinking or sniffing solvents in the liquor ban area and approaching people for change or cigarettes.

Murray Cruickshank’s daughter was waiting alone at the bus stop one afternoon when she noticed some men staring at her and she started to feel uncomfortable.

As she went to cross the road one of the men approached her and asked for change or cigarettes, he then started making “sexualised comments”.

The 17-year-old was so frightened she jumped on a bus to get away from them and thankfully the driver dropped her at the next stop so she could get the correct bus home, says Murray.

One of her friend’s has also been approached by a middle aged man who tried to chat her up and when she went to leave he grabbed her leg and tried to force her back onto the seat, says Murray.

Murray took to Facebook to see if any other people had similar experiences and he is surprised by the number of people that have.

“It really was a bit of an eye opener.”

The post on the Papamoa/Mount Community noticeboard attracted more than 100 comments and a lot of the stories echo Murray’s daughter’s experience.

Both Murray and his daughter were angry about her experience and are calling for action to make the area safer.

The single dad says his initial reaction was anger but the best way to deal with the situation is to work with the individuals based on their needs - be it employment, housing or addiction services.

“These guys need to be worked with one-on-one to get themselves a better life or whatever they need, instead of just letting them roam the streets and cause mischief.”

He says they all have a backstory that led to their circumstances.

Tauranga Police Senior Sergeant Chris Summerville says police regularly conduct foot patrols in the city centre to help prevent anti-social and criminal behaviour.

He says police have been using a national pilot scheme to deploy staff at specific times and locations based on data from calls for service.

Police will also respond when available to specific events that are called in via 111, these include reported breaches of local liquor bans or behavioural offences which are assessed on a case-by-case basis, says Chris.

“Many of those dealt with for this offending are suffering a wide range of welfare issues and police will often use alternative resolutions and referrals to partner agencies to assist with specialist help.”

Police's advice to anyone who feels unsafe on the streets is to move somewhere where they feel more comfortable, and to call police straight away.

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